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Not So Fast: Britain Did NOT Decriminalize Online Piracy

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A recent post claiming that the UK has essentially thrown up its hands in the face of illegal downloading appears to have got the facts wrong. The story, which has been getting a lot of attention across the Internet, suggests that instead of prosecuting illegal downloaders and file-sharers, they will be sent four warning letters and then if they persist…nothing happens.

As reported in this apparently more reliable story, the warning letters will simply be another approach to getting copyright violators to clean up their act voluntarily. But just as in the U.S., illegal downloading will still be subject to both criminal and civil prosecution.

Four large British internet service providers have so far signed up to begin sending the warning letters beginning in 2015. The program, dubbed “Creative Content UK,” has been embraced by ISPs such as Sky and Virgin, who as content creators have more to lose with illegal downloading. Some smaller ISPs are resisting the program, saying it’s not their responsibility to monitor customer online activity.

A similar program called the Copyright Alert System (CAS) has been in effect in the U.S. since 2013 with ISPs sending out more than 1.3 million warning notices. A three-tiered alert system, with each level of warning involving two notices being sent to scofflaws has led to the CAS being known as a “6-strike” system. It appears that the effort is working. In a survey, 57 percent of illegal downloaders said that they would mend their ways upon receiving the first warning. A mere nine percent reported they would ignore such notices.

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