Virgin Media targets illegal music file sharers in the UK

ISP first to implement 'three strikes' scheme

Virgin Media in the UK has announced that it will start cracking down on customers who are illegally downloading music files.

The ISP is working with music industry body the BPI on a pilot scheme targeting illegal downloaders. The trial, which marks the first time a British Internet company has clamped down on illegal file sharers, will be in full swing within a couple of months and complies with the government's proposed legislation for a 'three-strikes and you're out' rule. Offenders will be issued with a warning letter, followed by an Internet suspension if they don't comply. If they ignore the warning and continue illegal downloading, their access will be completely disconnected.

A spokesman for Virgin Media told The Telegraph: "We have been in discussions with rights holders organisations about how a voluntary scheme could work. We are taking this problem seriously and would favour a sensible voluntary solution."

Over the past two years ISPs and the record industry have failed to come up with a compromise on how to deal with illegal file-sharing, with an estimated six million people flouting the law. Internet service providers had previously been reluctant to track individual downloaders as it seems to infringe customer privacy, but Virgin Media has broken the stand off with its trial scheme. The BPI will trace the accounts of individuals who are illegally downloading and then hand the details over to Virgin Media who will match them to names and addresses.

BPI chief executive, Geoff Taylor, said: "This is not the time for ISPs to delay further. Government clearly shares the creative community's frustration at the failure of ISPs to take action."

ISPs in Australia may soon have the same powers.

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Carrie-Ann Skinner

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