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ISPs start to send out educational emails to file-sharers

By | Published on Monday 13 February 2017

An early recipient of one of those anti-piracy ‘educational emails’ now being sent out by internet service providers in the UK has shared the note they received with Torrentfreak. The ISP in question is Sky, though it’s likely other net firms are sending out very similar messages to customers suspected of accessing content from unlicensed services.

As previously reported, British internet companies are finally sending out warning letters to customers suspected of accessing dodgy sources of content, the 2010 Digital Economy Act having obliged the net firms to pass on such warnings to customers using IP addresses where rights owners have spotted piracy of one form or another.

The ‘educational email’ programme is part of the Creative Content UK initiative launched by the government, ISPs and entertainment industry back in 2014, and sits under the ‘Get It Right From A Genuine Site’ banner that was launched with a decidedly lacklustre advertising and PR campaign in 2015.

According to Torrentfreak, the educational emails sent out by Sky state that “we’ve been informed by owners of copyrighted material that the content below has been shared without their permission and we need your help to prevent this happening again”. The email then lists the bit of content that has been allegedly accessed from an unlicensed source, and the date and time it happened.

The recipient is then directed to the Sky portal where more information is provided about the alleged copyright infringement, including the software used to access the content and the name and size of the infringing file. There is also a box for listing past piracy alerts sent to the user, so presumably a long list of their infringing activity could ultimately appear.

The email also directs recipients to the previously reported Get It Right FAQs site, which answers questions like “What are P2P networks?”, “How do I get rid of P2P file-sharing software?” and “How can I tell is something is copyrighted?”.

The person who forwarded the Sky email onto Torrentfreak confirmed that he had indeed accessed an episode of the TV show ‘Westworld’ from an unlicensed source, as the educational email claimed. Though as a more savvy user of illegal sites, the recipient said that the email wouldn’t stop him from accessing pirated content, but that he might be more prone to use a VPN to help mask such activity.

Of course, rights owners realise that the educational emails alone won’t stop all people who access illegal sources of content, not least because the current system doesn’t make any threats against those who continue to infringe, such as suspension of their internet connection.

Though the hope is that more casual pirates might be persuaded to switch to licensed services. That’s arguably an easier sell for the music industry where the content accessed illegally is much more likely to be available via legit platforms, whereas with TV shows and movies – especially if they originate in the US – there is a chance they are not currently available via services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.