The BBC has learnt that a deal has been struck between four of the major UK internet service providers and the BPI and the Motion Picture Association to help combat internet piracy of entertainment properties. However, the measures proposed against pirates will be "educational" rather than punitive -- likely much to the disappointment of the entertainment industry.
From 2015, Virgin Media, Sky, BT and TalkTalk will begin sending "alert" letters to those found illegally downloading content. But rather than threatening punishments (as the industry bodies had pushed for), the letters will instead merely suggest users find legal ways to access the content they had been found stealing. There will be no mention of legal action or connection cuts, though each letter's language will "escalate in severity" with each successive notice.
A person (or more specifically, a residence -- an IP address will be used to identify pirates, though it's too imperfect an art for ISPs to name a specific user based on that information) can receive as many as four of these alerts in a year (either as physical letters or emails), before the ISPs back off, while all four ISPs can send a combined total of no more than 2.5 million alerts each year. This last figure may rise as other ISPs join the scheme. Though the ISPs will be able to hold onto the details of offenders for a year, the BPI and MPA will not be given access to pirates' details.
If there's a real winner here, it's the ISPs -- they're able to appease the industry bodies without doing anything too drastic that could scare off customers. However, it's been suggested that the move is a stepping stone to greater measures in the future, an attempt to gauge how seriously pirates take threats before moving towards a more strict and aggressive system further down the line. [BBC]