The UK Decriminalises Online Piracy

Piracy in the UK has now been decriminalized with the introduction of a warning letter system for repeat offenders but no punishment.


Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock

If caught, ISPs will send pirates up to four warning letters but after the fourth letter, no further action or punishment will be sought. Typically in these systems, the user faces a fine or a charge after a certain number of warnings or will have their Internet service cut off.

Interestingly, Creative Content UK and the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) will rather focus on directing users’ attention to where they can access content legally. The program will begin next year. Copyright holders still have the right to pursue legal action against illegal sharing though.

The UK was originally pursuing harsh penalties for piracy, outlined in 2010’s Digital Economy Act, and proved ineffective. Media regulator Ofcom tells us that almost a quarter of downloads in the UK are pirated content.

Business secretary Vince Cable announced the new scheme saying, “It’s a difficult industry to pin down and it’s also difficult to protect. But unless you protect it then it’s an industry that cannot function.”

The government will also pledge $3.5 million to educating users against piracy and accessing legal content.

VCAP is “persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection,” said Geoff Taylor of BPI.

“VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It’s about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice.”