Virgin Media downloaders to 'pay it forward' for Universal Music

Many legislators believe the cornerstone to halting the illegal trade of copyrighted music, movies, and software is to work with ISPs. Now, rather than debut a new punishment for downloaders, like the controversial HADOPI law in France, British ISP Virgin Media will offer downloaders the option to pay up front.

Virgin Media announced today that it has partnered with Universal Music Group to launch a new tiered music download service. For a reported £10-15 a month, Virgin Media broadband customers will have unlimited MP3 downloads from an ISP-provided catalog. With that service in place, there will be a diminished need to resort to illegal downloading.

The service will be the first of its kind: a broadband plan with a music subscription built in. Or if you prefer, it will be the first broadband plan where the user pays for files he hasn't downloaded yet. Virgin hopes that the service will "drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of [Universal's] repertoire across Virgin Media's network."

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Before it launches later this year, Virgin will negotiate with more major and indie labels in the UK to fill out the service's catalog. By offering a comprehensive catalog of unlimited downloads up front, Virgin will then be able to implement "a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives," which will include temporary suspension of internet access. Virgin has already said that none of its customers will be permanently disconnected for piracy, and its methods will not include traffic interception.

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