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Rory Cellan-Jones

Piracy: Did someone blink?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 15 Jun 09, 12:00 GMT

For the past few weeks, the war of words between the creative industries and the internet service providers has become ever more bruising, as Lord Carter's Digital Britain report nears completion.

digital britainThe music and video companies have demanded that the ISPs take strong action against illegal file-sharers, but they've responded by saying that they don't want to be internet cops, and that anyway beating piracy is a hopeless mission.

But today, there's a sudden outbreak of peace between two of the parties - Universal Music and Virgin Media. The ISP has unveiled a deal where its customers will get unlimited access to download as much music as they want from the Universal catalogue, free of copyright protection, for a monthly fee.

When I was called about this by a PR person, my first reaction was that this was interesting, but far from ground-breaking. After all, there are other "all you can eat" music subscription services.

Then I read further down the press release and found what Virgin was offering in return - action against persistent file-sharers. Here's the key paragraph:

"This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access. No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media."

That sounds like the "technical measures" that the creative industries want included in the Digital Britain report, as a backup to the despatch of warning letters. But by promising "a temporary suspension of internet access" for persistent offenders, Virgin appears to have gone further than any other ISP in acceding to the demands of the music industry.

What isn't clear is just how they will identify candidates for suspension without network monitoring or interception of customer traffic. How will they know what customers are up to, or whether the files they are sharing are copyrighted, if they don't have a close look at their traffic?

These are questions that I'm about to put to the boss of Virgin Media, Neil Berkett. I'll keep you posted. But, as things stand, it does look as though someone has blinked in the war over piracy.

Update 1503: Having just met this deal's two protagonists, I think I'm a little clearer about what this is about.

Lucian Grainge, the chairman of Universal Music Group International, and Virgin Media's chief executive Neil Berkett were both keen to stress the "carrot" in the deal rather than the stick. They insisted that this kind of unlimited deal was just what customers had been demanding.

"We're giving them what they want," said Neil Berkett, "they will change their behviour."

"We've listened to consumers, we've listened to our artists, this is a real game-changer, we hope," said Lucian Grainge.

But when it came to the stick, Mr Berkett was very keen to play down the steps that would be used against file-sharers: "Yes, there are measures - no different really from what we are already doing; we're using the same technology as all ISPs."

As far as I understand, this means that it would still be Universal spotting the persistent file-sharers linked to Virgin's IP addresses. But Virgin will then get in touch with the customers, with a graduated response, which would culminate in "temporary suspension" of the user's broadband service if he or she failed to respond.

Virgin and Universal seem confident that the whole initiative will have a major effect on attitudes to illegal downloads, even suggesting that it will help achieve the government's target of cutting illegal file-sharing by 70%.

But there are a whole lot of questions still to be answered. Will other music labels come on board before the service's launch, which is due "before Christmas"? How much will the monthly subscription cost?

Will people who've grown used to "free" music from file-sharing really be happy to start paying even a modest fee? And is there a danger that some Virgin broadband customers will be so put off by the company's measures against file-sharers, however limited those might be, that they will choose to move to another ISP?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

  • Comment number 2.

    If the process for temporary suspension does not involve "network monitoring or interception of customer traffic" are they just taking the music industries word on complaints? If so this is a totally unacceptable state of affairs, my question would be is there any kind of appeal process for wrongly accused customers?

  • Comment number 3.

    I look forward to Neil's reply although it does look like the powers that be have finally realised that it's not only illegal files that are traded via P2P networks and Torrents.

    As for the people searching for MP3 files that are being shared, this will just change to becoming ZIP files, FLAC, OGG or one of the other many formats that files can be shared around as.

    Who will keep the list of files that are illegal to share up to date? And who is policing the police?

  • Comment number 4.

    Even if Virgin implement this, it will be a brief window in which they're able to act against copyrighted downloads.

    Before long users would react, and a fully encrypted and anonymised approach to file sharing would appear.

  • Comment number 5.

    "How will they know... whether the files they are sharing are copyrighted"

    Not only do they not know this, they cannot possibly know it. It will be Big Content who try to determine this and then get Virgin to annoy you sufficiently to cancel your subscription and sign up with another broadband provider.

    Given that file sharers buy TEN TIMES more music than non-file sharers, I'd say this is a good way to for Universal to cut sales of their artists' music significantly.

    https://venturebeat.com/2009/04/21/study-finds-file-sharers-buy-ten-times-more-music/

  • Comment number 6.

    #4 "Before long users would react, and a fully encrypted and anonymised approach to file sharing would appear."

    These are already starting to appear, for an example take a look at "OneSwarm". In the long run all that can be done is make it more difficult and more bandwidth intensive to exchange files. The problem is that it only takes one individual or group to make a user-friendly piece of software that has the right capabilities and we're back to square one.

    It's not a winnable battle. The media industries would be far better to make both their products and their prices more appealing. To start with, getting rid of Digital Rights Management (DRM), region coding and other forms of imposed restrictions on media that is actually paid for might help. These do nothing at all to prevent copying but do a lot to stop legitimate use - for example look at the CDs that have been "protected" to stop computers from reading them. This results in them being useless for people with MP3 players.

    In the end the illegally downloaded version is not only cheaper (free) but a superior product. Is it any wonder that people pirate?

    If the Virgin/Universal service is priced reasonably, this does sound like a move in the right direction.

  • Comment number 7.

    Lets suppose that it is the label doing the monitoring and not virgin. They tell Virgin I have been file sharing, my internet connection is "temporarily disconnected"

    Only problem is that I have not been file sharing, I sue Universal and Virgin for defamation and collect millions. Great .. when do you start

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I had to laugh last night when I saw an advert on TV for Blur's "new" album - for only £9.99!

    So, the songs were recorded and sold years ago for a lot of money, making large profit for both Blur and the label, and they decide to repackage them years later and try to sell them AGAIN for a tenner!!!

    The greed of the record labels staggers me. Perhaps if they released some decent music at a fair price, people would stop illegally downloading.

  • Comment number 10.

    I guess there was finally enough money in it for Virgin to develop a conscience over illegal filesharing. It's a disgrace that customers pay Virgin and then Virgin act like your own personal digital police - they should consider the old phrase "the customer is always right" before millions switch their supplier.

    And as for Universal (et al), they don't have the product to enforce their blanket ban. What if, like millions of others, I don't want "Amy Winehouse, Girls Aloud, La Roux and Black Eyed Peas"? Maybe I'm looking for rare northern soul or underground punk. They have a pitiful roster and back catalogue compared to 'the web' - when will they stop trying to force us into buying their rubbish?

  • Comment number 11.

    The established music industry doesn't seems to have noticed but there has been a revolution and they are never, ever, ever getting back to the 1980s music business model. Artists no longer need endless time in ultra expensive studios to record music fit for release. Musicians no longer need the huge advertising budgets of the big labels to get known. We no longer need to bow and scrape to over inflated, talentless, coked up A&R men...Its these record company staff who are mostly seen on TV bleating about piracy its the A&Rs and label chiefs who are most scared as they do not actually do anything remotely worthwhile to justify their vast renumeration!

    And the most important single consideration is this:

    If an artist could earn enough money to buy a decent house, pay their mortgage and educate their children solely through their music they should consider that an almost divine giftEarning Billions a la Paul McCartney et all is a twentieth century phenomena that will never be repeated! Wealth and artistic creativity have time and again been shown to be inversely proportional. Vast wealth and fame should not be the prime motivating factor for artists - it certainly wasn't for Rock and Roll's pioneers...but then again the music industry as it exists now didn't exist when Elvis cut his first record.

    Earning money from live performances and the commercial use of your music is easy to regulate and would earn most artists more than enough money to get rich. It might not buy you a $60million Gulfstream business jet but I think a century with no more Rock Billionaire Hypocrites can only be a good thing!

    The system as it is hopelessly skewed in favour of the big labels and established bands.the MySpace generation will destroy the record companies and the world will be a much, much better place for their demise!!

    People power brought down communism - so a few piddling record companies and fat cats shouldn't prove to much of a challenge! Hello to the democratisation of music.

  • Comment number 12.

    SingTel have just launched the exact same offering (also with UMG) for South East Asia. https://www.singtelamped.com/
    They are taking a bold move and not chargeing for data on the streaming or download options of the service.

    It will be interesting to see if this model migrates online (as both Virgin Media and SingTel both operate in Mobile and broadband). This something Google is trailing on in Asia, but could remain unworkable by restrictive piracy control efforts in the West.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good on paper, but it will never work.

    Random Virgin users will be disconnected (who did not do anything illegal) and the word will get around. This would decrease the number of their users and decrease the number of subscribers, leading the deal would fall.

    And how they will know what people are sharing is beyond me, hence why I think they will disconnect random users.

    I could easily share protected .rar files on my server, they could easily be my own property (for example pictures or videos) or copyrighted material (like albums), no way to know.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's unlikely that anyone will be monitoring downloads - much more practical is Virgin providing a list of their user assigned IP addresses to an investigator who will then monitor uploads looking out for those IP addresses. They just have to download what you offer for upload, confirm it is protected intellectual property and the job's done. No packet monitoring required.

    The beauty of the solution is that it doesn't hit downloaders directly, it limits the number of files being seeded (which is the core of the problem). No files being uploaded = no files to download.

    I like the fact that whilst they take away the illegal source of music with one hand, they offer a subscription service in its stead. At least they're learning (slowly). The other advantage from the ISPs perspective is it involves little extra work.

    I don't buy the arguments that file sharing is ok because file sharers allegedly purchase more music. They only monitored internet purchases. Who's to say that the non-filesharers don't buy twice as much music as filesharers but from traditional sources?

  • Comment number 15.

    I like Virgin as a company, but I think they have got this terribly wrong and will backpedal like crazy as their loyal customers switch to an ISP who isn't policing their internet usage.

    Personally, unlimited access to Girls Aloud and friends for a fee doesn't do it for me.

    It is the product pricing that is the problem and the availability of back catalogue material.

    Only when the music industry sheds it's greedy personality will the public be more affectionate to them.

  • Comment number 16.

    There are many complexities to all of this and the previous posts are exploring them nicely. For my part as a Virgin customer and someone who uses file sharing sites i'll be voting with my feet if i get any grief from Virgin.

    I'll side step the complexities of the issue but would just point out that the Internet has changed the playing field for so many things. Record companies are not about creativity they are a self serving special interest group interested in making money out of others creativity so they need to adapt or die to the new playing field.

    Aside from that we need to stay Pirate because the Internet has simply been the greatest leveller for people around the world we have seen in our life time. To have it totally corporatised and incorporated into the Big Brother state - which make no mistake is the bigger picture that the fight over file sharing is part of - would be another notch in the long and tragic list of things inflicted on we the people by big corporations and governments.

  • Comment number 17.

    As my previous comment was referred to the mods, let's try this instead (a simple list of questions it would be nice if the BBC could investigate and answer):

    Q. Who is doing the monitoring? If it's a record label then are they only going to report offenders when they download THEIR labelled music? If it's the ISP, how do they know what is legal and illegal? Surely with the added complexities of territorial distribution, who's to say that a track download is illegal in that territory? Another example would be to say that I create a piece of original music, save it as an MP3 (unlikely as it would be FLAC or OGG for best quality) and share it with my friends, how do the internet police know this is free from copyright?

    Q. Who is policing these people to ensure they're not just picking on Joe Bloggs who happened to download 4GB in a few days (assuming it's music and not the latest Linux distro or something else you can get LEGALLY from Torrent sites)?

    Q: As others have said, what if a mistake is made and your internet is suspended - how can we prove that we're wrongly accused?

    Q: How long is this ban to be in place for? A month? A week? a year? Where does it say that if I am suspended I can't change ISPs in the mean time to someone who won't bar me from the web for doing this again?

    If you ask me (and by means of this debate, you have), all music should be free. Share it, love it or hate it but be free to decide for yourself. If you like the music, contribute some money direct to the artist (via a simple paypal button on their website) or go see them live (but keep the ticket prices reasonable please!).

    In todays digital world, there is NOTHING stopping this from happening except for the greedy MIDDLE MAN record companies who are scared that they will soon be out of business because of this new era in technology.

  • Comment number 18.

    So this 'service' will cost 'about two albums a month'. So £20ish a month then.

    On top of £15 a month ISP charge.

    £35 a month is still a rip off.

    And I can't believe Virgin are doing this.

    We need another Punk revolution in the music industry.

  • Comment number 19.

    Bye Virgin, one less costumer.

  • Comment number 20.

    Creative Commons gives you free music without all the hassle and a lot less of the hoopla surrounding the performers. And you can contribute. It's free, it remains free.

  • Comment number 21.

    This would be less irritating if my virgin internet account wasnt constantly up and down like a bl**dy yoyo at all hours.

    I've spent around 50% of today without a connection :)

    Perhaps if they spent more time on sorting out their service issues and less on pointless 'initiatives' I might be able to check my email once in a while.

    PS to any Virgin marketing people reading this - telling your customers you'll be spying on them is never going to earn you much cust' sat', especially when they are already at their wits end with you...

  • Comment number 22.

    Re-issue ! Re-package ! Re-package !
    Re-evaluate the songs
    Double-pack with a photograph
    Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
    ....
    Best of ! Most of !
    Satiate the need
    Slip them into different sleeves !
    Buy both, and feel deceived

    (Paint a vulgar picture... The Smiths 1987)

    And still it goes on!
    How many times are thes guys going to charge us for the same old stuff?

  • Comment number 23.

    All well and good if you choose the artists you like, by which record label they are on!

    When will labels realise that listeners have no loyalty to them - if a band I like is on another label, I will buy from that label instead.

    I'm not looking forward to paying Universal for "all you can eat" from their artists, then paying EMI for the same, and SonyBMG, etc.

    The industry as a whole needs to get its act together and come up with decent and compelling "products" for its "customers" - 10 years on, and they still haven't managed it.

  • Comment number 24.

    Neither of these corporations invented the world wide web, nor have they written a note of the music, but they act as though they are gods of both.

  • Comment number 25.

    Presumably this action will only take place if you share Universal music files and not files from any other company, or indeed other types of pirated goods such as software and movies.

  • Comment number 26.

    Music is strange in being both the product for sale and the advertising for the product. Music distribution has always been both paid for and free - buy the disc; listen to the radio free. Labels spend heavily on getting music played on radio. What we pay for is the convenience of listening on our own terms, when we want to. There used to be a considerable cost in distributing music; that cost is gone, and the labels are now struggling to cream off their huge revenues on the back of nothing. Don't sign up to Virgin, BT, Sky and other big businesses attempting to act as tax collectors. They stitch us up bundling what we don't want with what we do, rental instead of sale, minimum contract terms and push advertising. We don't have to put up with them any more, so let's not. The music will find us. Fight to enjoy the content you want when you want it without further commitment. No-one wants to rent music recordings.

    And why no mention of the number one paid for download service: iTunes. Apple actually gives the customer what they want - to buy and own just the music they want for the rest of their lives, knowing it isn't expiring, rented, or unfairly restricted in how they can use it. People are happy to pay for that.

    The iPhone Application store shows with software what happens when the dead hand of old media distribution is cut out of the process; lots of free and cheap content sold direct, worldwide by the artist (programmer in this case). Let's get on with the future now please, and stop obsolete businesses trying to stop it.

    And let's hear some real technical details of what they are offering. What's the format and bit rate; what are the precise contract terms. I'll bet that once again they promise nothing except to take your money for a minimum of twelve months.

  • Comment number 27.

    Why does the media not report the two sides of the digital music mess?

    The music industry conceals some nasty truths about its role in its own downfall:

    1. Digital music (especially CD or very compressed MP3 files) sounds dreadful compared to analogue music (vinyl). The record companies knew this when they released CDs and MP3 files and blatantly lied about the "quality" of digital music. Do I have sympathy for the record companies - a resounding no!

    2. The original CDs for most albums (even recent ones) sounded so poor that the record companies had to remaster them, sometimes four or five times. No record companies have ever offered a refund (or part-exchange) to customers who have bought four or five versions of the same album (in a vain attempt to obtain a copy that sounds good). That, IMO, is criminal!

    3. Why did piracy start? Until digital music was easy to copy, the music business charged outrageous sums of money for CDs (£15.99 was the usual cost of one CD). Some would say that the music business got what it richly deserved!

    4. Vinyl is still available and often comes with a sticker saying that MP3 files are available free. Often they only available in one continent. Even when they are available, the MP3 files are usually so badly compressed that they are unlistenable. Again the music industry is culpable.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm a Virgin Media customer. My choice is Virgin or BT, a bit like choosing between swine flu and smallpox! Years ago when Branson owned the Megastore, I bought a CD or thought I did. When I got the case home, I discovered that there was no CD inside. Virgin refused me a refund or replacement. They lost my record business then and they will lose my broadband business if they persist with this rubbish.

  • Comment number 29.

    So Virgin Media decided to sell out. What's new. We all knew ISPs would sell out in the end.

    I do like the way they've deciced to charge a monthly fee for downloading music that has already been released and has had a significant profit made from it, but I guess they think that Average Joe Public is slow witted and ever so slightly dumb...

    Personally I don't see this "deal" as anything significant in terms of beating piracy. It only affect customers on Virgin media, and those who wish to download music from artists that are on the Universal Music label.

    Other people on other ISPs networks will still share music, and artists not on the Universal Music label will still continue to find their music shared. And I doubt it'll stop anyone sharing on Virgins network or sharing music by artists on the Universal Music label.

    The problem is that Average Joe Public, or more to the point their parents, will pay for this monthly "service" without even considering that to a large extent they are yet again being fleeced in the name of profit!

  • Comment number 30.

    They say will cost around the same as a couple of albums, so around £15-20

    This is potentially great value when you have unlimited access to hundred/thousands of albums a month but I still can't see many Virgin customers adding this to their subscription packages.

    For around 59p-79p a track iTunes (and Amazon & others) offers a buy what you want type service with bundling needless 'fillers' and other such stuff

    Napster (and others) offer an all you can eat unlimited service

    So the two payment methods and business models are already in existance and yet music piracy has never been higher, If Virgin or Universal think the introduction of this service is going to make a difference then they're living on a different planet.

    I'm not sure what the answer is (I'm not pay handsomely to find out either) but I do know this isn't the answer.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hmmm, nothing I would want to download on any of the Universal Music Group labels.

    Would be a great idea if this covered all music companies/labels but that will never happen.

  • Comment number 32.

    "People power brought down communism - so a few piddling record companies and fat cats shouldn't prove to much of a challenge! Hello to the democratisation of music."

    You are aware that illegal sharing of music is pretty close to communism. Maybe capitalism didn't win after all.

  • Comment number 33.

    There is no music that I can think of from universal that I would want to pay that amount a month for so thats a non starter for me. Plus Im rather inclined to jump ship right now even tho I dont actually download music. Its more a principle thing.

  • Comment number 34.

    Surely any one company only has a limited amount of stock that would be of interest to any individual?
    So, you pay the subscription, legally downlaod everything that you want
    Why do you pay again next month?

  • Comment number 35.

    I would estimate that a good proportion of the illegally downloaded music is little more than 'audio spam'. Downloaded, set as a mobile ring-tone, played a few times, deleted after a week and then forgotten about. Throwaway music for a throwaway generation. Even if you were to charge 1p to download it, many would still prefer to pay nothing. Because, this music is worthless.

    I'll bet you most of these downloaders couldn't even list the titles of the songs they downloaded last week.

    Perhaps the artists should concentrate on producing music that is worth paying for?

  • Comment number 36.

    It's a start for them, but that's all.

    EU Parliament voted against , 'three strikes, (graduated response, Carla Bruni Clauses) on May 6th, but the EU Council may still push something through despite its citizens making clear its wishes. The French courts rejected Hadopi.

    The 'technical measures' must involve looking inside your data packets to determine what might be copywrighted and what may not be! That breeches the 'internet principles' which at some point must be accepted by the ISPs and regulators and the European Comission if any of them expect to have a say in the running of ICANN. More detail here - https://broadbandbritain.spaces.live.com/blog/

    It is interesting that this Digital Britain report has become not how our media giants and phone operators thrive from the internet but just how to survive it in the short term.

    While they work our their survival plans by containing our connectivity, UK companies and individuals will slowly lag behind over countries capable of embracing the changes resulting from ubiquitous high speed connectivity.

  • Comment number 37.

    Completely agree with comment 15.

    Very interesting that Virgin Media is coming out with this rubbish. When Branson owned the Megastore it was one of the most expensive places to buy low quality CDs. Maybe a bit of navel gazing by Branson would end this stupidity by Virgin Media.

  • Comment number 38.

    @26 ancientdream

    Great post, especially the last paragraph.

    In addition, if I decide to download music from torrents then I can normally expect a heavily compressed file, with significant degredation in quality compared to a cd. If I like the album then chances are i'll buy it so that I can listen to it on my high end system at a mucher better quality. Problem is, the majority if these mainstream artists whose revenue is so cherished by these leeches are often elevated to their lofty position by radio stations induced to play them. Even more often, the albums only contain two or three good songs - certainly not worth shelling out for a whole cd.

    Also, there seems to be this fundamental misconception when the 'cost' of piracy is calculated that everything downloaded would otherwise be purchased. This is simply not true. I imagine that the shelves of many people with vast illegal collections would not be so full if music/film could not be illegally obtained.

  • Comment number 39.

    I have to say I see an awful lot of people here critising this decision making rather silly comments and claiming "this is the end of virgin for me" and the like.

    Seriously, what difference does this really make? Virgin have said specificaly that they aren't going to do anything different. They are ALREADY sending letters out to file sharers and are ALREADY threatening to temorarily suspend accounts for those who chose to ignore the warning letters on multiple attempts of communication.

    Quite frankly I applaud this effort. We are not talking about people transfering music from their own CD collection to another one of their devices here. We are talking about people that never owned said music getting it for free. It doesn't matter how old that music is, why should they be allowed to have it without paying a penny for it? Even if its a Beetles record that you purchased back in 1966 at least you PURCHASED it.

    As to poster #5 who claims that file sharers buy "10 times more than anyone else" I question if he even knows who/what these file sharers are, because I can certainly garuntee they pay 10 times LESS than everyone else. They do not buy DVD's, they do not pay subsription to TV chanels, they do not buy music ablums. They download the lot for free. That has to stop, that is clearly what Virgin are striving to do.

  • Comment number 40.

    A boom is on the way for those offering proxy services in a discrete manner.

  • Comment number 41.

    @39

    All downloaders/sharers are different. For example I download the album of an artist first, and if I like it I feel inclined to support them in some way, so either will buy the album or will catch them at live shows, or both in many cases, at some point.

    ----

    All these labels just see the negative side of things about file sharing, and I believe it has brought more to their advantage, because genuine fans will always remain.

  • Comment number 42.

    VampiricHoshi @ 39; you're simply wrong. Don't take my word for it, just google the phrase "filesharers buy more" and read the reports and studies that have been done over the last few years, in this country and elsewhere.

  • Comment number 43.

    Various industries complain that file sharing is costing them business and is causing them to loose money......except what if the file sharer was never going to buy the product even if there was no choice to pirate?

    In some cases the industries dont help because they dont allow people to get the full song such as the 30 seconds on itunes or never release demos (such as with video games) meaning that piracy is the only way to sample the product.

    Unlimited deals can work but only if they are cheap enough for the various demographics (e.g. teens/kids) and they feature most record labels. Or make the product cheaper online, the game service Steam has a weekend offer every week which is where I buy most of my games.

    In the end though Piracy is a fact of life and these policies wont prevent the many and instead of trying to stop the pirates they should ask the pirates why they do it to sought out their own mess especially in these times when many people can't afford their products.

  • Comment number 44.

    so really virgin have promised to do is to take the letters they get more seriously on a question how long is a temporary suspension and what if I can cle my account and move in the middle of it and if it is quite a long suspension ie months am I still paying fopr a service I am not allowed to use?

  • Comment number 45.

    Music will not die just because people get it for free.

    I notice on the technology pages of the main BBC site they are now saying that "piracy will kill good television". Please, don't even go there, TV died a long time ago when we went from 4 solid channels to over 100 - all competing with each other for viewers.

    For example, let's say there are only 1,000,000 viewers. With 4 channels, you're looking at roughly 250,000 per channel. Dilute this even more to 100 channels and the rough number of viewers drops dramatically. Combine this with 24hours a-day 7 days a week programming and a consequence is rubbish TV with less money for decent programmes. So we have hundreds of "cheap TV" (also known as reality TV) programmes and a few gems in there every now and again.

    Let's also not forget that series are released in different countries at different times - a great example is House MD. Sky are just showing series 5 now but in America, it's already finished!!

    All the best shows are being bought up by the corporate giants (in this case, Sky) so people feel they are being forced into subscribing just to continue watching something they started to watch on free-to-air TV.

    Don't blame the people who download TV series - especially in the age of TV-on-demand when people want to watch what they want, when they want, we're not setting out to hurt people we're just sick of the record and TV companies, treating people like cash-cow consumers instead of people, continue like this and expect us to bite back.

    Oh, and don't get me started on the TV tax, whoops, I mean "license" ...

  • Comment number 46.

    It is possible the MP3's could be watermarked, maybe even have encrypted data appended to the track. If that file is seen on P2P or torrents they can track exactly where it came from and even know the date and time it was downloaded.

    Only way to find out would be to download the same track from multiple accounts and do a byte compare. You could then create an anonymiser tool if the tracks are watermarked.

  • Comment number 47.

    From the Digital Britain Report (16 Jun 2009) page 110, point 19:

    "A recent study in Scandinavia has shown that the biggest users of unlawful peer-to-peer material are also the biggest paid-for consumers of music. Where there are easy, affordable and lawful routes consumers will take them."

  • Comment number 48.

    @42 the issue isn't the overal amount of file sharers. Small-time file sharers, the ones that perhaps download a few tracks or maybe a few albumns every few months, which likely make up a large amount of the overal file sharers, like #41 for example, are not the problem and they by-and-large are not the ones recieving letters.

    The file sharers that ARE the problem, the ones that are costing businesses a lot of money including the ISP's themselves, are the ones download 50gb and more worth of music, movies and TV content. THESE are the people that are causing the issues and these are the people that DO NOT spend a penny on the things they are downloading.

    Unfortunately this is a situation where a minority are so brutaly abusing file sharing that they have resulted in what may others have been largely ignored to what is now being considered serious piracy not just by record labels but by governments. The only way you can prevent these people from what they are doing, without somehow removing file sharing entirely which is utterly impossible, is to take the measures Virgin and other ISP's are starting to take.

    Will innocent people get caught in the middle? Most likely, but how else are these people going to be tackled?

    Once again I am not, and neither are Virgin, talking about small-time file sharers. They and I are referring to those that are downloading ridiculously large amounts of data monthly.

  • Comment number 49.

    @48, I can see your point, but 50gb is not much :P a couple of HD movie's worth. There are people who go through an external hard drive easily a month.

    But with speeds getting so fast you can see why people are going for the quick download option, you can download a whole movie under 10mins sitting on your chair. Now image how many you can get in a day.

    They need to start providing content online like movies and tv series, in a similar platform such as Steam. And this way they cut down costs on packaging, distributing, artwork and creating the cd/dvd's in itself to just server costs. This way it would be cheaper for the user and more would be willing to purchase them. Yes this means remodelling their business but it's exactly what they will need to do if they want to survive.

  • Comment number 50.

    #49 "But with speeds getting so fast you can see why people are going for the quick download option, you can download a whole movie under 10mins sitting on your chair."

    I assume that you aren't with Virgin Media!

  • Comment number 51.

    @#48: you talk about 50Gb as being a "ridiculously large amounts of data" but you are so wrong.

    There are 5 people living in my house using one net connection on a daily basis, pretty much as and when we feel like it - we regularly exceed 30 to 40 Gb per month on browsing alone, no file sharing whatsoever

    BBC's own iplayer can rack up the data download at a fair rate

  • Comment number 52.

    @50, assumed well, but I was talking about other people I know, although my speed is very reasonable too. :)

  • Comment number 53.

    All of this 'warning' rubbish is a bit hypocritical of Virgin Media.

    WHY do they offer a 50mbit broadband connection? Do they really think that people JUST use the internet for viewing youtube videos, and checking their emails?

    Obviously NOT - otherwise they wouldnt be offering a 50mbit connection. I can think of no reason (other than piracy) why someone would want to pay for such a fast internet speed, if they just use the net for legal content only.

    Virgin know a high proportion of its users are downloading DVD copies of movies, at a large 8gb each - ditto with XBOX360 games, PC games/software, and also thousands of mp3 files.

    Maybe if music, DVDs, PC software/games, and XBOX360 titles were not such a complete rip-off people would not be funding Virgin's 50mbit broadband service.

    Except for the odd 18 movie, where you don't get any screaming rude kids, ruining your movie, why would you pay around £8 or £9 to see a movie at the cinema if you have to put up with someone kicking your chair, chatting on their phones, and being anti-social in a 12a or 15 rated movie?

    Given the choice I would MUCH rather obtain a DVD quality (in most cases) bootleg of current movies, BEFORE they have even been released in the UK.

    Also, you can NOT beat the price of free, and simple economic theory states that NO consumer would buy a product, if they can obtain the SAME version of it, a 1:1 copy of that same media. For the vinyl lovers, they know they have no other choice than to buy, for true quality.

    Overall, I am happy that piracy exists. It makes the media market more competitive in terms of the quality of products it produces. Also, piracy (should) mean cheaper prices for you and me, in the record/retail store. However movies, games, software etc are STILL heavily inflated.

    I also think you will find that people are willing to pay for a product or service, as long as they are getting the full product, without anti-piracy rubbish on the disc. Why buy content which is restricted, when you can obtain a perfectly copy-protection free copy of the net, which does not limit your use of that product.

    Virgin without file sharers is going to lose them a LOT of revenue. Virgin will NOT really be biting the hand that feeds them! I'm sure that even if a user reaches a 3rd warning, that they won't even be cut off!

  • Comment number 54.

    I think Steam is a shining example of how to do this type of thing properly. In fact I don't use pirated software simply because I feel in general the software industry does a really good job of providing what I want when and how I want it.

    I wish the movie, tv and music industries would follow suit.

  • Comment number 55.

    The music industry's concerns about piracy have been with us since the 1980s and the introduction of magnetic tape into households - if the Pirate Bay's logo isn't familiar to you, you may be a little too young to remember the "Piracy is killing music" stickers of the time.

    I'd be curious to see what happens to those pirating independent music or non-Universal artists' material using Virgin's service. Not much, I'm guessing.

    As with tapes, many of the technological benefits of 'piracy' are being adopted by the producers - BBC iplayer being a case in point.

  • Comment number 56.

    After the French High Court ruling that access to the internet is a 'fundamental human right'. Does Virgin Media honestly want to take the risk of suspending someone, get taken to court and then get the same ruling here in the UK?? That would then open the floodgates and every single suspended account holder, past and present, would be able to sue VM for breaching their Human Rights

    Everyone I know downloads from a file sharing service in some form. The main reason as already stated in previous posts are: Try before buying, replacing a CD that was bought but has been damaged and wont play - why pay for something twice (why doesn't the record labels do what software companies do? for a small fee you can get your damaged media replaced) and of course rip off prices

    Piracy is a fact of life and is here to stay - you can either evolve in response and provide a service so people wont go for an illegal option, or fight a losing battle and alienate your customers.

  • Comment number 57.

    With Virgin going out on its own on this they will be shooting themselves in the foot.

    No-one i know who uses Virgin will stay with them if they are being monitored online (so obviously). If they want to download illegal stuff they will simply move to a provided that doesnt have these restrictions. I know i will, i would be still using windows 3.1 if it wasnt for piracy allowing me to download copies, i'm not a skinflint, i just simply poor. God bless shareware!

  • Comment number 58.

    I have just had a flick through the digital Britain report. Hmmm still think this is all rather fishy. No real answers are being provided.

    In regards to this Virgin deal, I see from any ISP:
    Order music download package at cost £?? (unlimited music downloads), on top of your internet monthly charge (£?? with unlimited download but due to change to 2GB limit). Get home from work and try and download some music, rubbish speeds due to either or both, everyone else online or ISP throttling the bandwidth. Leave pc on overnight downloading albums, have my bandwidth capped as used to much bandwidth that month. Slow internet for rest of the month.

    With regards to this disconnection for a limited time, how is this going to work? I dont want a third party monitoring my transfered data, besides not all P2P data is illegal file sharing. Surely monitoring my data is illegal, i mean the Royal Mail cant open my letters to see what i am posting? I use P2P everyday pretty much does that mean im going to be disconnected? The P2P network i use is on my PS3, this is the network topology used by Sony for their PSN. This allows me to download games from their shop and play games online.

    Another point here is ISP's were on about introducing charges for extra bandwidth useage, for streaming movies, music and playing online games. Why should this be introduced? The whole point when broadband was introduced was that you could be permenantly connected and surf for as long as you like etc. Why charge me extra for using this service for gaming when i already pay for a monthly line rental (i feel sorry for Xbox 360 users, that will be standard line rental, xbox live subscription and maybe a sur-charge if this scheme is introduced)

    I think it will be time to disconnect soon, as hidden charges will be introduced left right and centre, then i will have my connection capped due to useage, whilst having all my traffic monitored(hmm he goes on torrent search sites/porn/opposing political party sites etc, then this info is passed on to third parties), then i will be disconnected for using my PS3 online as it uses P2P technology so it must be illegal, as we dont want these multinational corporations losing money.

    As for piracy, the multinational companies have had it their way for far too long, now the power is swinging the otherway they do not like it, they have brought this on themselves. They should have lowered the prices of albums/games/films, they could have paid the actors 100K rather than £15m to reduced costs. I will download music and films, most of it i would never buy unless it was in sales, so they cant moan about loss of sales. If i do like a band and their cd i will buy it and perhaps buy tickets to gigs, e.g. Oasis, i have all their albums and singles on cd and have seen them twice, i do have a lot of mp3s by them (from P2P networks) but these are not for sale anywhere as they are live performances and demo's, am i preventing sales here?

  • Comment number 59.

    This thing going of company putting us in the "slow lane" or more acuratly but cutting down our speed would be very stupid as complaints wouls start arising as users are not getting their contract broadband and all sorts of suing will beging or users will just switch provider... As people who do iligal downloads understand about broadband and have a very good understanding of how this works. If a company doesn't provide the speed the promissed they are in breach of contract and an easy switch of providers will sort that problem of the speed being cut.

    Even just by treatning a switch to a broandband provider will make them give u full speed again as i found out when they were purposly cutting my speed limit. So i rang up and sead " If i dont get my contract speed at beggining of tomorow i will switch providers and i wont pay a penny for the rest of the contract as you are not keeping up with contract you promessed me" Lets just say i never had faster internet after that.

    There are many ways around downloading music/movies etc illegally and iits a lost batle... They are just wasting valuable resources they could use for hospitals, schools etc...

    Thinks strait before you start a batle that can not be won!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Sorry about my spelling .. :S

  • Comment number 61.


    It is unfair to tax every landline in the UK £0.50p per month it is just another stealth tax after the government has failed to do its job.

    Most people are saying this is not enough and when this proves to be the case they will up the tax to several pounds to cover the cost.

    It means if you do not want or use broadband you will be subsidising the other areas.

    Secondly the government has made a fortune out of the sale of BT, G3 licences and various other sales of radio licences etc. Pocketed large dividends from BT for years being one of the largest shareholders without insisting BT invest in updating its old infrastructure. (Now they want the tax payer to pick up the bill)

    BT for years refused to allow other providers access to its exchanges, BT also did not embrace the current broadband technology which I think is ADSL and Fibre but insisted on trying to use some other form of satellite technology that was slower and much more expensive for years. When the rest of Europe was already using ADSL.

    Why should we pick up the bill. It will also cost council/business tens of thousands of pounds. I work for a small NHS provider and I have counted 500 separate phone lines thats another £3000 for one small NHS provide.


    Also why cant we use the sewer system like other countries to role out fibre much cheaper.

  • Comment number 62.

    We have had much debate about who is going to do the monitoring (Labels/ISP) however what has been left out is the possible role of the Performing Rights Society who (for their members), currently monitor media for use of copyrighted material.

    I am going to a talk by an author next week who has written a book about the demise of the high street record shop. In the advanced publicity for the talk, is a suggestion that the music industry per say has a business model which after 50 years of use is now broken. Is this not just that model continuing in its death throws?

  • Comment number 63.

    Re: #22

    I Wonder if Morrissey knew when he wrote that song that 20 years later we would have seen:
    Louder Than Bombs
    The Very Best Of The Smiths
    Singles
    The Best Of the Smith Vol.1
    The Best Of the Smith Vol.2
    The Sound of The Smiths
    The Sound of The Smiths (Deluxe Edition)
    Not to mention The World Won't Listen, Hatful of Hollow, Rank
    etc.
    Not too bad from a band that did not release as many albums of original material.

    Seems a shame to pin it on the Moz but the artists themselves are not entirely blameless in all this. They must have some sort of approval in some cases.

  • Comment number 64.

    "20. At 6:33pm on 15 Jun 2009, ashbel wrote:
    Creative Commons gives you free music without all the hassle and a lot less of the hoopla surrounding the performers. And you can contribute. It's free, it remains free."

    what you need is a creative commons app that can pad out your CC marerial to digitally look like any and all the so called copyright material covered by these copyright lists.

    then when they say you are breaking their copyright, you can show them the door and bring a county court small claim against them and virgin media.

    death by a thousand legal pecks will get their attention and anyone can use the county courts and small claims cheaply, but your all sheeple and cant even be bothered to do such a simple short term thing, such as the bank charges users showed us the way.

    YOU can to bring this to a head and stop this guilty until provent innocent corporate mentality, and perhaps even force the uks largest comsumer ISPs, Virgin Media, BT etc from over selling you, and everyone else a "unlimited service" then providing less bandwidth as per contract so you cant even stream the BBC Iplayer data content.

    are you uneducated lazy dumb sheeple willing to take anything these PEOPLE making these choices hiding inside the UK corporations aslong as they dont take your money in one lump sum, or will you finally get a clue, use the web to educate yourself in the ways of the small claim
    and do YOUR part to force these corporate people to provide what they sell you under comsumer contract , a fixed broadband speed for a fixed price, plus one off extra's as you might wish to take at the time....

    did ou people forget Lord carter IS an Ex Vigin media Executive and hes looking after his old chums VM US executive club, one more UK broadband tax to enrich the US corporations holding the virgin media shares....

    thing about it..... put yourself in their shoes, and realise were all your monthly subscription cash is being diverted to, instead of were it it should be going, at least 50% of it should already be going into the UK broadband infrashricture to build it out and allow long term growth.

    they cant supply higher upload rayes as the easy get BECAUSE they didnt buy the ongoing hardware and lay all the dark fibre needed to allow for long term growth.

    you need to speculate to acumalate in hardware, on an ongoing UK corporate master plan, they didnt, and havent for a long time, thats were this new tax comes in, so they can replace that missing profits you have already payed in year on year, that they not just skimed off, but offloaded by the mega open mining bucket load.....

  • Comment number 65.

    One other thought: When Virgin Media say 'unlimited access' whose definition of 'unlimited' are they for using? The dictionary's or the ISP's laughable definition. Or will the Oxford dictionary update their definition to suit the ISP's?

  • Comment number 66.

    How do plans to restrict or remove broadband access from individuals square with Gordon Brown's assertion that broadband access is an essential service like gas or water ?

  • Comment number 67.

    Perhaps Virgin Media would be better employed dealing with their well publisised problem of cloned modem (available in your local pub, very cheap) before taking such grand steps.

    There is also the issue of people being wrongly-accused of downloading pinball games to hardcore pornography as featured on Watchdog in December 2008. They are accued purely on the basis of an IP address. Look on Slyck.com forums for the full tale.

  • Comment number 68.

    Perhaps my ballmark of 50gb was a little old-school, but my point still remains.

    The targets are the people that are downloading entire series, entire films, entire games, entire operating systems and other software, entire albums, on a daily or even hourly basis as aposed to those who download and share perhaps 1-6 albums a month.

    You are always going to get illegal downloads while the net is so open ended, but there ARE things that can be done to curb the people that are doing it to extremes.

    But at the end of the day, as others have elluded to, this is less an issue about the actual act of piracy and more an issue of an utterly broken business model both in music and in software and video where prices are more than 60% higher than they should be. But quite frankly while record labels continue to earn millions off a single artist that simply is not going to change unless a big label becomes ballsey enough to almost completly drop their comission from an artist's work and instead charge the artist a fee based on the level of publication the label does - you know, the thing they are actually supposed to be in business to do. But of course that just means labels will start charging ludicrous sums of money to artists to keep their big swanky houses and bling.

    How can you truly fix a fundamentaly corrupt system while those who made it corrupt in the first place continue to run it?

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

  • Comment number 71.

    British inventors appear to have come up with a brilliant anti pirate/terrorist weapon to stop speedboats,a netgun to foul propellers.
    In my home(nz) we alrady invented 50yrs ago the better of this system it's called a jetboat.no netgun is goig to stop a jetboat.not to mention a boat full of explosives & automatic weapons?

  • Comment number 72.

    "#17
    Q. Who is policing these people to ensure they're not just picking on Joe Bloggs who happened to download 4GB in a few days (assuming it's music and not the latest Linux distro or something else you can get LEGALLY from Torrent sites)?"


    This is very true, more so considering that more and more people are using file-sharing programs for distribution of freeware and shareware.

    One of my hobbies is server management/administration and my O/S of choice is CentOS (a free community based version of Redhat) and their preferred method of distribution is via torrent files to save bandwidth and storage space (their hardware is primarily donations).

    I play a few online games (free and paid for) and their preferred method of distribution is download and that is done via P2P - not direct download - to save the companies bandwidth and therefore money.

    Although file-sharing and P2P has, is and always will be primarily associated with "illegal activites" there is now more demand for it from free, legal and legitimate organisations and users due to its simplicity, low cost, popularity and its ease on companies bandwidth

  • Comment number 73.

    I am personally split between the 2 sides of filesharing, whether it be TV, Movies, Music, Software and so on...

    On the one hand, it is wrong and it is illegal and everyone knows it is, there is also the chance that you may download a virus/trojan horse.

    On the other hand, it puts less strain on people financially especially when everyone seems to be going through hard times with the recession. It (in a twisted way - there are going to be arguements of course) more secure... Because you dont pay, you dont have to worry about giving out payment details to anyone.

    I think most peoples problem is - they dont know what they want and they dont know whats available and they resent the idea of buying something to find out that they dont like it, only to be told that they cant get a refund.

    I have trouble dealing with large crowds so going to a busy shopping centre in town on my weekend off to go looking for CDs, Movies and Books doesn't appeal to me.
    I frequently get put off from using sites like Amazon (although i have never had any issues with them in the past) when you read stories like the recent one where several companies databases were cracked and a large amount of credit card details were stolen.


    This all said and done. Although i could argue points for and against both sides, there is a third party i could not defend in any way

    Buyers and Sellers of pirated DVDs/CDs.

    At least i can say that the odd time i, or any friend have shared a file iot hasnt been for profit and the people that buy them i consider fools. Either download it or buy it legally.

    All you are doing is handing your money over to criminals and although im sure someone will say "well downloading is criminal" im fairly certain that the 15 year old girl that downloaded the latest album for her own personal use isnt going to trade that in for a bomb/gun/knife whereas that nice little old gentleman that sells knock off DVDs in your local bar is most probably going to be handing that money over to his boss who happens to be a high ranker in the criminal fraternity

    (note: i do not imply racial sterotypes such as chinese, thai, polish, russian, english, arabic etc as ANYONE could potentially fill the spot so please -when you flame this- dont use stereotypes in return)

 

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