For more than two years, major UK ISPs have been sending out copyright infringement notices to subscribers caught sharing content using BitTorrent. The voluntary scheme, run by rightsholders, had ambitions to educate 'pirates' to buy from legitimate sources. TorrentFreak can today confirm that ISPs have stopped forwarding notices after the program was terminated by the movie and music companies.
Every day, millions of Internet users obtain movies, music, TV shows, and other content from peer-to-peer networks, mainly BitTorrent. The only ways to reach these users to stop or correct their behavior is via aggressive and controversial lawsuits or infringement notifications sent via ISPs. Both options are unpopular with pirates but the latter is clearly the softer option, especially when that allows rightsholders to turn a negative into a plus. In 2014, rightsholders and several ISPs in the UK agreed terms on what would be known as VCAP – the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program. Entertainment companies, for their part, would monitor file-sharing networks for infringement, logging pirates’ IP addresses as they went. These would be tracked back to ISPs who agreed to forward warning emails to subscriber accounts linked to the alleged piracy, without compromising customers’ privacy.
As part of the broader government-funded Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative, the notices would be firm in tone but would also direct alleged pirates to a portal where they could learn more about why they had received the notice and where legitimate content could be obtained. The accompanying educational program was expected to launch in the summer of 2015 but there was little immediate fanfare. By December that year, things did get on the move but a year later, no notices had yet been sent out by participating ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Sky, and TalkTalk.