BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk are being asked by music and film companies to sign up to a voluntary code for policing illegal downloading. Negotiations have been under way for months with the BPI and the British Video Association, whose members include the BBC and Hollywood studios.
Between November 2012 and January this year, 280m music tracks were digitally pirated in the UK, along with 52m television shows, 29m films, 18m ebooks and 7m computer software or games files.
The data, collected by the communications regulator Ofcom, suggests 18% of internet users aged 12 and over have recently pirated content, while just 9% fear getting caught. Last month, Breaking Bad was released to UK viewers on Netflix and iTunes within hours of its US airing in an apparent attempt to limit piracy.
A key part of any voluntary agreement is the creation of a database of repeat offenders. Initially, customers would receive letters from their broadband company saying their internet address had been used for illegal downloads.
The letters could warn of consequences and direct internet users to legal sites selling music, videos and books. Those who received three such letters could face sanctions.
Measures could include throttling internet connections to slow them down, blocking users from particular sites, disconnecting offenders from broadband for a limited period and ultimately prosecution. Broadband companies would need to keep a list of those customers they had sent letters to.
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