The UK has tried a few different methods to stem the flow of rampant torrent downloads, from site blocking through to strike-based warning systems. None of it seems to work, so now it's dropping the stick and using a little more carrot to get people to stop downloading, in one of the best-looking anti-piracy schemes we've yet seen.
It's called Creative Content UK, and it's a surprisingly sensible anti-piracy plan thought up by the content creators and license holders themselves to stop people stealing their work.
Record companies, creative industries, artists and more will band together with ISPs to educate pirates about how they can get content legally.
It all starts with a massive advertising campaign pointing Britons towards legal online content services like iTunes, Netflix and Google Play in a bid to cut down on people heading straight for The Pirate Bay to get content.
The second stage involves ISPs matching copyright-protected content being downloaded by users, and sending those alleged pirates letters telling them they've been caught doing it. Rather than punish the pirates, however, the Creative Content program will simply use the mail-out scheme to further educate pirates about how they can get their content legally.
Here's how the British Recorded Music Industry association explains the "subscriber alerts" scheme:
<blockquoteThe second component is a subscriber alerts programme that will be co-managed and co-funded by ISPs and content creators and due to begin at a later date. Participating ISPs will alert and advise subscribers when their accounts are believed to have been used to infringe copyright. Account holders will receive an alert from their ISP, advising them unlawful filesharing may have taken place on their connection and offering advice on where to find legitimate sources of entertainment content.
Users will receive a maximum of four letters per year, and after the four-letter limit has been reached, nothing more happens to users. Zip. Nada. Nothing. All carrot, no stick.
Best of all, the plan is government funded. UK Ministers have backed the project, while also announcing that £3.5 million of government money will be poured into the scheme.
Local ISPs like iiNet have complained in the past about who would pay for a copyright warning scheme in Australia, saying that matching content and sending letters to users would carry a significant financial burden. That's just one hurdle the Australian government will have to jump over as it considers punitive three-strikes schemes and site blocking regimes. Both of which have already been trialled in the UK, and clearly lawmakers have moved on after anecdotal reports emerged that they actually increased the number of pirates in the country.
The plan clearly hinges on implanting a palpable sense of shame in pirates about content theft, while pointing them to cheap and legal services. The price is right for services like Netflix in the UK, and content is readily available.
Here's hoping the plan works so other nations around the world see that pirates respond to cheap and readily-available content. [BPI]