The UK's New Anti-Piracy Scheme Is All Carrot, No Stick

The new anti-piracy scheme being trialled by the UK is surprisingly easy-going. The UK has tried a few different methods to stem the flow of rampant torrent downloads, from site blocking through to strike-based warning systems. None of it seems to work, so now it's dropping the stick and using a little more carrot to get people to stop downloading, in one of the best-looking anti-piracy schemes we've yet seen.

It's called Creative Content UK, and it's a surprisingly sensible anti-piracy plan thought up by the content creators and license holders themselves to stop people stealing their work.

Record companies, creative industries, artists and more will band together with ISPs to educate pirates about how they can get content legally.

It all starts with a massive advertising campaign pointing Britons towards legal online content services like iTunes, Netflix and Google Play in a bid to cut down on people heading straight for The Pirate Bay to get content.

The second stage involves ISPs matching copyright-protected content being downloaded by users, and sending those alleged pirates letters telling them they've been caught doing it. Rather than punish the pirates, however, the Creative Content program will simply use the mail-out scheme to further educate pirates about how they can get their content legally.

Here's how the British Recorded Music Industry association explains the "subscriber alerts" scheme:

<blockquoteThe second component is a subscriber alerts programme that will be co-managed and co-funded by ISPs and content creators and due to begin at a later date. Participating ISPs will alert and advise subscribers when their accounts are believed to have been used to infringe copyright. Account holders will receive an alert from their ISP, advising them unlawful filesharing may have taken place on their connection and offering advice on where to find legitimate sources of entertainment content.

Users will receive a maximum of four letters per year, and after the four-letter limit has been reached, nothing more happens to users. Zip. Nada. Nothing. All carrot, no stick.

Best of all, the plan is government funded. UK Ministers have backed the project, while also announcing that £3.5 million of government money will be poured into the scheme.

Local ISPs like iiNet have complained in the past about who would pay for a copyright warning scheme in Australia, saying that matching content and sending letters to users would carry a significant financial burden. That's just one hurdle the Australian government will have to jump over as it considers punitive three-strikes schemes and site blocking regimes. Both of which have already been trialled in the UK, and clearly lawmakers have moved on after anecdotal reports emerged that they actually increased the number of pirates in the country.

The plan clearly hinges on implanting a palpable sense of shame in pirates about content theft, while pointing them to cheap and legal services. The price is right for services like Netflix in the UK, and content is readily available.

Here's hoping the plan works so other nations around the world see that pirates respond to cheap and readily-available content. [BPI]

Originally published on Gizmodo Australia


    Shame on you for such a misleading title.

      yer WTF at that title - its atrocious and entirely misleading.

        Sorry guys. Story was cross-posted from Gizmodo and I wanted to give a different headline a go. We've made them uniform now. Apologies if you felt misled at all.

          Thanks Luke, sorry I came off so angry and pitch-fork like!

            Don't stress. I'm used to it on Gizmodo. You're all uniformly lovely people over here!

      What was the original? I missed it

        I guess it's the one in the URL - It's OK to download illegal torrents in the UK now.

    This doesn't really do anything useful and is basically the six strikes scheme (ie. Hadopi) without the punishment at the end. Most people who pirate know about the legitimate channels, but choose to pirate because of reasons such as:
    * The item is unreasonably expensive
    * The item is not available in your region
    * People want to know whether it's actually worth buying the item

    Sure, you might panic a few kids and parents who thought they could be cool by pirating something. The end result though is that ISPs will have a bigger burden of monitoring traffic purely to send out a few emails with a disapproving stare and people will continue to pirate because they know nothing will happen.

    Last edited 23/07/14 11:00 am

      Not true. There's a lot of misconceptions and as the article mentions, many people now go to pirate sites by default. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people will be surprised to learn that some content they thought carried a premium cost is available for (in many cases) literally pennies and at the ready of a few clicks.

      Sure, there are lots of callous/anti-establishment/teenaged people who'll just laugh at this, but they were a void market to begin with. To anyone else who still has a bit of a conscience, this may make a difference.

      'People want to know whether it's actually worth buying the item'
      ^ this.

      If I have read reviews on a game and its mixed I dont want to go out an spend $100 bucks on something that is crap. Im a PC player and dont have the luxury of the xbox or ps4 7 days trial purchases from EB games.

      If more games actually released a demo I would be more inclined d/l and play those to test the game than to d/l the whole game to test.

      Im all for supporting companies, but only if the product they've released is what they have hyped it up to be.

    Some are saying that this will be used as a drag-net to identify offenders and then punish them further down the road. Can't say I'd be surprised.

      Definitely worth considering. There may be some value to educational articles after 3-strike implementation in Australia advising how best to respond to the letters that go out.

      Some kind of written reply. Maybe a lawyer-checked form letter along the lines of:

      "Hi [ISP]. I believe you have sent this letter in error. Copyright infringement is not occurring in this household to the best of my knowledge. My music is acquired through [iTunes / Spotify / Pandora / YouTube], my games through [Steam / Humble Store / GoG] and TV/movies through [Streaming service provider eg: Netflix].

      To the best of my knowledge, P2P filesharing occurs with legally-shared files only, and I have made all reasonable attempts within the limits of my technical ability to avoid unauthorized access to my connection.

      I request that you eliminate any record of these false claims, or after further investigation, provide more detailed information as to how I personally have been responsible for them, and not a third party gaining unauthorized access to my connection."

      Because I definitely wouldn't put it past the content-generation industry and their paid-for pollies to later claim that lack of denial to those letters could be claimed as tacit acceptance of their validity.

    As always, the primary issue here is the availability of content with the secondary being the arbitrary jacking up of the price. Get both of those under control and I suspect the Australian problem dramatically drops within months.

    That wouldn't work here because Australia doesn't have any cheap and readily available content as an alternative.

      I already posted it below, but the new windows 8 music store is really very, very good. I'm still surprised that Microsoft has taken such a consumer positive approach.

        My first reaction to your comment was "Gee Windows has a music store? I'll have to check that out".

        Unfortunately, that was where the pleasant surprise ended. It's the same problem as Itunes and a number of other stores. You can't just go there in your browser, pay some money and download an MP3. It's Windows 8 "App" or use Windows Media Player... ugh.

        I want a store that works like BandCamp, but on the scale of Itunes.

          I don't particularly like the whole apps thing myself, but the xbox music app is surprisingly good and having one-click purchasing and a clean, (mostly) intuitive interface is nice. I click into it to set music and then I minimise it so I can do other things while I listen.

          If you log in to the website you can listen to it all but the one click buying doesn't work through the site. I'm actually pretty happy about that. I wouldn't want to stay logged in somewhere and have someone have free access to buy every album from every band starting with "the".

    Lack of affordable and convenient content is a major problem. Advertising is definitely another. This at least helps one of them.

    After I started using Windows 8.1 I realised that the music app not only uploads all of my collection to the cloud to be listened to anywhere for free, but it shows me new stuff by bands I already have, let's me listen to it for nothing and then lets me buy it in DRM free mp3 at 320k for about $12 an album. After buying it, it's on your pc, on the cloud, and freely copyable.

    Microsoft just won themselves a customer who buys a lot of music... I'd have been on board sooner if anyone had actually advertised such a great feature.

      And they did a terrible job of marketing that, because every ad I've seen for it was for the "Xbox Music Pass", ie. the streaming service, not the free play-your-own-music service. And looking into it, their site focuses exclusively on streaming, no mention of purchasing songs/albums, no mention of offline play.

        If you want to listen to it on an android or idevice, you have to pay for that dumb streaming pass thing, but on desktops, it's anywhere with an internet connection.

        I log in to from work and listen to music from my desk every day. If I want to listen to new stuff I click it, listen, and if I like it I can buy it with one click when I get home. It downloads directly to my music folder which I can copy directly to my mp3 player.

        It's awesome.

          Wow... just tried the windows 8 app on my laptop at work. It pulled (almost) everything from my home music library and provided it for streaming. While I already had most of that on my phone... this is a nice alternative.

            I'm not sure why it doesn't upload everything. A few things have been specifically asked not to be available by the copyright holder, but the rest seem to not upload because the id3 tags aren't quite right. If you use the app to ID the songs, they should also upload to cloud automatically.

      Holy crap that's awesome.

      I had no idea that existed, just trying it now and I'm listening to new stuff!

      Now we just need a version of it for TV and movies.

      Last edited 23/07/14 1:22 pm

      How DRM free are we speaking? Standard practice for distributors and publishers is to offer files that are not restricted to a service or device, what is traditionally viewed as DRM free, and instead embed "record company required metadata".
      This metadata usually contains identifier information pertaining to the purchasing account and the transaction, with the intent being that were the files to be involved in copyright infringement, the metadata could be used in legal proceedings, and can be found either in ID3 tags or as Unique Identifier Technology Solution data within the file.

      A quick look around tells me that files downloaded from Xbox Music for offline use do contain DRM, presumably UITS data. The easiest way to check for it is to grab an ID3 tag editor and a hex editor. Metadata in ID3 tags is generally found under the comments section; UITS data can be found by using a hex editor and searching for the text strings "PRIV", "id", "store", or "time". Note that these text strings are common amongst some distributors and may not be present in Xbox Music files, assuming UITS data is used.

      My point in all this is that DRM has changed to enable the consumer to feel greater freedom in their transactions and product use whilst enabling greater intrusion by publishers. A great step from what digital distribution used to be, but entirely untenable when most consumers are not aware of the practice and few distributors take it upon themselves to notify consumers when metadata is present in a purchase.

        Not informing people is a serious problem. That I will dfeinitely concede.

        But I don't really care about passively tracking licensing in general. It's no different to, say , how the VIN system works for cars. There are definitely safety issues involved for cars, but essentially it's a similar system. In the end, I bought it legitimately and I have no intention of releasing it for mass redistribution, so I'm not worried if the company knows I bought a thing when they already had my credit card details, email address and windows CD key.

        What I want is to be able to access my content without inconvenience, on any device of my choosing at a fair price. This is what Steam provided, despite being essentially a huge DRM device. I was all over Steam, too. Still am. This system is essentially Steam for music and I'm incredibly impressed with it.

    "Hey [user], please don't be a television pirate! You have a great alternative in Foxtel Pty Ltd content at an affordable $79 a month, or a Game of Thrones subscription for only $30 a month"
    Hahahaha... no.

    Last edited 23/07/14 1:29 pm

    Troubling additional commentary from a BBC consultant:

    "But sources close to the discussion suggest there could be a bigger game at play here. Within the leaked agreement, one important point: if this system does not have a big effect on piracy, then rights holders will call for the "rapid implementation" of the Digital Economy Act, and all the strict measures that come with it.

    Steve Kuncewicz, an expert in online and internet law, agreed. He speculated that the deal "may be a Trojan horse exercise in gathering intelligence about how seriously downloaders take threats".

    In other words, if it can be shown that asking nicely does not have a significant effect on curbing piracy, rights holders will for the first time have a seriously credible set of data with which to apply pressure for harder enforcement on those who simply do not want to pay for entertainment." -

      Ah, there it is. The sound of the other shoe dropping.

    I like this idea a lot. A similar tactic was employed by Malwarebytes. I had downloaded a pirated version of Malwarebytes (Yes, I know) and after a few weeks of use I received a pop-up upon launching the program. It had detected that I was running a pirated version but instead of locking me out, It gave me a $10 discount and let me continue to use their product and of course, I took them up on their offer and never looked back. Educate rather than attack. Thats how we should deal with piracy.

    The Government (even if it's not ours) & Entertainment industry is getting the message and learning, this is good progress.

    Why don't thy do what GOOGLE suggested and make things more available and affordable. It will stop like 75% of pirating...

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