The government seems to have put its money where its mouth is and has pledged £3.5 million in funding for what will be a 3-year educational awareness campaign that is set to be rolled out at the beginning of 2015. The campaign seeks to harbour greater understanding and respect for intellectual property rights in the creative industries and to provide consumers with real alternative means of enjoying online creative works without infringing these rights. Through the alerts programme, which is due to begin at a later date, the participating ISPs will send subscribing account holders a series of alerts, informing them that unlawful file sharing has been detected, educating them as to the consequences of this and advising as to the location and accessibility of alternative, legitimate sources of creative content. Where infringement persists, the ISPs will send subsequent, but no more than four, letters. Whilst the language and tone of the letters will be gradually vamped up, no further action will be taken following the fourth alert which some consider to be a far cry from the draconian technical measures envisaged at the dawn of the DEA some four years ago. The DCMS has confirmed that it has no plans to progress work on the DEA anti-piracy regime because the "mass notification system" envisaged under the regime would largely duplicate the voluntary industry scheme.
So why such a softly, softly approach? According to Geoff Taylor, the CEO of the BPI, it's " not about denying access to the internet. It's about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice." (Click here for the BPI's press release) Virgin also recently posted about its involvement in the Creative Content campaign on its blog and provided an indication as to the thinking behind adopting an awareness campaign instead of a more punitive one. It claims that many Virgin customers have provided feedback; expressing a need for greater guidance and assistance when it comes to finding ways to legally share and enjoy creative content online. Virgin believes that "people will ultimately pay if they can get what they want, how they want, at a price that's fair to them." Despite these comments and general rousing support for the campaign, the key concern remains the same; that many of the online users that the campaign is seeking to target are not innocent, uneducated and ill-advised individuals, but quite the opposite, they are tech savvy and aware of, what some consider to be, a continuously "toothless" approach to the fight against online piracy.
We will have to wait and see how effective the campaign proves to be and if Creative Content UK does not achieve what it is hoped and expected to achieve, might we see the resurrection of those harsher measures under the DEA which have currently been laid to rest?
In other related news, the BBC reported yesterday that another, different anti-piracy strategy has also been adopted by the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) (known as 'Operation Creative') which will see the police placing warnings in the form of banner advertisements on infringing websites. The banner advertisements will appear instead of paid-for advertisements (the latter being a source of revenue for infringers) and will ask website users to close their browsers. There are concerns that some legitimate websites may be targeted in error by the police but as with Creative Content UK, we will have to wait and see how effective this strategy is and whether it goes any way to reducing online piracy.