Virgin Media to begin penalizing users for illegal downloads

The British ISP is set to throw down the gauntlet on those who download music by disconnecting those who fail to heed warnings.

Trade group British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is working with Virgin to implement a "three strikes" policy, which would initially deal with music downloads. However, film and television studios are also being invited to participate, meaning any illicit downloads could be penalized.

Record labels have been pleading with ISPs to take a more active role in preventing the transfer of illegal downloads, and the ISP appears to be the first to acquiesce. The government is also expected to weigh in on how the policy can be legally enforced.

According to a story in the London Telegraph, the trial program should go live within the next few months. Under the policy, a warning letter would follow the first offense, a temporary suspension on the second, and disconnection on the third.

Officials at Virgin say they have been in discussions with content providers over a voluntary system, which they favor. The UK government has weighed in, threatening legislation if the two sides could not come to an agreement.

BPI researchers would trace the downloads to customers accounts, which would then be handed over to Virgin for disciplinary action. The trade group would likely only be able to match the download to an IP: the ISP would need to match it to a name and address, according to the report.

The trade group has lauded the agreement, saying that ISPs cannot delay any further. "Government clearly shares the creative community's frustration at the failure of ISPs to take action," it told the paper.

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