Thursday, 13 September 2012

Illegal downloading, will you end up in court?

As it stands the UK is roughly two years away from the implementation of the Digital Economy Act. The Act will hope to give the movie, music and television industries long sought after protection against online piracy. Under the Act ISPs will be required to send warning letters to those suspected of illegally downloading copyright material. If the customer receives three letters in a 12 month period their personal details may be passed on to the copyright holders enabling them to begin legal proceedings.

It's almost impossible to say whether the Act will significantly reduce online piracy. The possibility of ending up in a court room may be enough for some to start parting with cash in return for digital media. Although for the persistent offenders of Act, how likely is it that they'll see the inside of a court room? Using France as a reference point, it would seem that ending up in court is pretty unlikely.

In France rights holders claimed three million IP addresses had illegally downloaded copyright material over the past two years. Hadopi, France's anti-piracy agency only deemed one million of those worthy of receiving a letter of warning, 10% of those went on to receive a second and a minuscule 0.34% received a third. Hadopi was only able to bring 14 people, or 0.0012% of those who received a first warning letter to court. In my opinion bringing 14 people to court is hardly a victory for rights holders, especially as Hadopi is run at a cost of 12 million euros a year.

It could be argued that Hadopi is reducing online piracy evident by the fact 90% of those who received a first warning did not receive a second. I believe however this is a result of offenders taking more care in a bid to fly under the radar. It's pretty simple to download through a proxy server, if you wish you can even pay companies a monthly fee to encrypt your traffic to the point it's almost impossible to determine the material you're downloading.

It would seem come 2014 consumers illegally downloading in the UK will have three options available:

1. Stop downloading illegal material and start parting with cash.

2. Subscribe to a service like BT Guard and download through a proxy server.

3. Ignore the warning letters if they come and face a possible day in court.

I'd advise taking option number two, it's by far the cheapest and almost guaranteed to keep you under the radar of rights holders.

As always, thoughts welcome.

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