British Officials Deny New Copyright Regulations will Decriminalize Online Piracy

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Sharing copyrighted files is still illegal in Britain. A single inaccurate media report on the U.K.’s recently announced Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) has created an online furor and numerous repetitions of the erroneous suggestion that adopting the program amounts to decriminalization of file sharing.

As reported by the WHIR earlier this week, British ISPs and “creative industries” will begin in the spring of 2015 sending letters to internet users who violate copyright, directing them to legal alternatives. The system will operate similarly to the American “6-strike system,” which operates independently of the legal system.

“This is just one piece of the overall approach to tackling illegal online infringement and promoting the importance of copyright,” said Chris Marcich, President and Managing Director EMEA of the Motion Picture Association.  

In other words, just as in the U.S. copyright holders in the U.K. can still file suit against pirates, but they now have a separate system, called “Creative Content UK,” for identifying and contacting them to inform them of the error of their ways.

While four big ISPs are signed on to the program currently, one smaller provider Odyssey Systems will not join because it does not accept monitoring its clients’ activities as one of its responsibilities, according to TorrentFreak. Most small and medium-sized ISPs like Odyssey are not part of businesses which also create content, whereas major providers like Virgin and Sky have a built-in incentive to monitor their customers for copyright infringement.

The impact of voluntary awareness programs like VCAP is dubious, even for the American system where consequences like reduced bandwidth are built into the system.

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