Selected ISPs in the United Kingdom will start sending out warning letters to users suspected of downloading pirated content, but will not have to ban users or take further action.
Years in the making, this latest anti-piracy measure has been negotiated between ISPs and rights holders keen to do something about the piracy problem in the UK. The voluntary program comes after major U.S. ISPs adopted a similar industry based solution, and takes some pressure off the government having to introduce their own graduated response regime.
So far, only four ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, will take part in the "Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme", or Vcap.
Under Vcap, ISPs will monitor their subscribers for potential infringing activities, and send suspected pirates increasingly serious letters warning them of their actions. Up to four letters will be sent, before the warnings cease and no further actions are taken.
The total number of warnings sent over a three year period will also be capped at 2.5 million.
In a privacy win for Internet users, rights holders will not be able to identify users that have been sent warning letters, as they are only allowed to access basic non-identifying data such as the number of warnings that have been sent out.
As for who ultimately pays for this endeavor, it appears that unlike other systems around the world, rights holders will be footing most of the bill, as opposed to tax payers or ISPs (who then pass on the cost to subscribers). Rights holders will pay £750,000 or 75% of the cost to set up Vcap, whichever one is lower, and will also have to pay £75,000 annually to ISPs to cover their administrative costs.
If Vcap is unable to stem the tide of piracy in the UK, the current agreement will reserve the right for rights holders to ask for harsher actions, such as Internet bans, to be taken.