Britain just decriminalised online game piracy

Tuesday, 22nd July 2014 08:39 GMT By Patrick Garratt

The British government has decriminalised online video game, music and movie piracy, scrapping fuller punishment plans after branding them unworkable.

Starting in 2015, persistent file-sharers will be sent four warning letters explaining their actions are illegal, but if the notes are ignored no further action will be taken.

The scheme, named the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of talks between ISPs, British politicians and the movie and music industries.

The UK’s biggest providers – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky – have all signed up to VCAP, and smaller ISPs are expected to follow suit.

VCAP replaces planned anti-piracy measures that included cutting users’ internet connections and creating a database of file-sharers.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music trade body the BPI, said VCAP was about “persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection.”

He added: “VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It’s about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice.”

Officials will still work to close and stem funding to file-sharing sites, but the news appears to mean that the British authorities have abandoned legal enforcement of online media piracy.

Figures recently published by Ofcom said that nearly a quarter of all UK downlaods were of pirated content.



  1. The_Red

    Wait what? This is really, REALLY baffling me. 4 warnings and then nothing? What happened?

    #1 5 months ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    @The_Red I assume it’s because so many people do it. They can’t police it.

    #2 5 months ago
  3. Luciferous

    TV Show piracy I understand to a certain extent – When a show is released with no way to get simulcast everywhere people want to avoid being spoiled by the other half of the internet who ravel in such petty behaviour and so people turn to torrent and streaming sites. If there was a fairly priced service that allowed people internationally to watch shows together it would cut that sort of piracy down by a large margin.

    Music tends to be pirated out of laziness, i know because i was guilty of it during my university years, I’d want something specific to listen to whilst studying so instead of going to HMV I’d bang KazaA on and away I’d go. I’d imagine services like spotify have had an impact on that kind of music piracy.

    It always comes down to providing a better service and being more open to combat piracy committed by those who aren’t going out of their way to do something illegal for illegalities sake.

    With video games, it comes down to price and risk – No one wants to spend £40 on something they may hate and if there is no demo present to help gauge your mood to something you will find other methods that don’t require the equivalent of three months public transport costs.

    I don’t condone it, but I understand all too well why it is done.

    Of course some people just pirate things because they feel the world owes them free stuff.

    #3 5 months ago
  4. Queripel

    Decriminalise != legalise, presumably the copyright holders can still pursue you for damages / take you to court / etc, you just won’t end up with a criminal record.

    #4 5 months ago
  5. Dunno

    hahah should’ve never bothered in the first place.

    #5 5 months ago
  6. Stardog

    The letters are probably enough to scare most people into stopping.

    #6 5 months ago
  7. Triggerhappy

    WOW. Never seen that coming. These days though with the likes of Steam, Steam sales, independent key retailers… anyone who pirates games is just a cheap ass lazy motherfucker. If you can’t afford a new game when it comes out then save your pennies and play something else in the meantime, it’s not like the old days when you had only 3 good releases per year, otherwise you’re just living beyond your gaming means and damaging the industry you love at the same time.

    #7 5 months ago
  8. DirtyDog1979

    So does this mean they’ll stop blocking sites?

    #8 5 months ago
  9. OlderGamer

    If this type of thing were to become the norm for all leading markets, its impact on games could be a further push towards games as services like always online games(even in single player mode, so some purchase validation code can be confirmed). As for movies, they have been too expensive for years. Music? That industry has already been effected, hence 99cent songs. But I recon more and more stream anywhere services will continue to trend.

    over all, I like this ruling. Maybe some of the unsustainable over inflatable budgets in games will drop due to the consumer having a choice. And lastly, the undustry needs to understand not every pirated bit is a lost sale. Some people will pirate things they wouldn’t pay to use anyways.

    #9 5 months ago
  10. xXNapsterManXx

    Wow , cutting their internet seems like the easiest thing to do. I don’t really care about people pirating TV or movies but as a gamer people pirating games hurts.

    #10 5 months ago
  11. TheWulf

    I think Gaben got this right, it’s all about price and service. This is why the likes of Steam, GoG, and Bandcamp are so successful. If something is being pirated, it’s usually because there’s a failure in either service or price. I feel that the weakest area at the moment is still film and TV.

    I pirate films because I’m disabled, and as I’ve seen mentioned, I don’t want it spoiled for me. I am physically unable to go to a cinema, so I don’t. When the film finally arrives on Amazon, I pay to see it again. But the initial watching is always pirated for that reason, because the cinema industry is purposefully and intentionally crippling other outlets.

    Then there are TV shows. If they’re on Amazon Prime Instant Video or Netflix, I’ll watch them there. But very often, you’ll see something like a show having the first two series for free, and then every other series after that costs twenty quid or more. And when you realise that some shows can have anywhere between 5-10 series costing that much, it becomes a case of “WAT????? I’m absolutely NOT paying THAT. That’s daylight robbery! I feel insulted. I am not a fool, so I am not so easily parted from my money, I’ll take my business elsewhere!

    And I do. I’ll try and get it cheap somewhere, and if I can’t, I’ll just head on over to out of spite. If they don’t want what I can actually afford to pay, they get nothing. This is what Gaben understands — people exist within different financial brackets, and you can either take what they’re willing to pay, or they’ll just find a better service with pirates and you’ll receive no money at all.

    The problem was never piracy, the problem was always bad, greedy business. I mean, right now, I’m paying Unblock-Us a monthly subscription just so I can access the full content of Amazon Prime and Netflix (hooray for greed), because the UK versions have less than 30-40 per cent of the American content, whilst keeping the same subscription price.

    That’s just taking the piss.

    If there was a service like Steam where I could get a series of a somewhat recent show for $5 ($15 without ads), then I’d actually do that. If there was a place where I could pay around the price of a cinema ticket for the privilege of a HD stream of a movie on the day of its cinema release, I’d do that.

    The thing is is that these are rarely options. So… I go to Netflix, I go to Amazon, and if they’re not there then I turn to the only other service that’s available — piracy. Again, I do rent the film on AZ when it actually, finally turns up, but I’d LOVE to be able to do that on the day of release.

    And considering how insulted I feel by cinemas for being so incredibly fucking ableist, I’m amazed I do that, but I don’t want to punish the content creators for the sins of a corrupt industry.

    #11 5 months ago
  12. TheWulf


    The amount of people that pirate games these days is nominal, and it’s usually people from poorer countries who can’t afford them in the first place (thus, not a lost sale). I’ve hit hard times at the moment, but I still pay for my stuff where and when I can.

    And cutting a person’s Internet is the most amazingly stupid thing you could do. I know, you probably didn’t think first, but there’s this little thing that computer nerds refer to as ‘false positives.’ How would you like to wake up, one day, to find out that your Internet has been cut because you were falsely accused of piracy? Only to have to go through months of red tape to prove your innocence?

    Good luck with that!

    False positives happen all the time, this is why we don’t act on something harshly unless we have the evidence. What the British government has apparently realised is that they’ll never have the evidence, and even if they do, it might have been planted or mistakenly assumed. They’d end up cutting off more innocent people than guilty ones.

    #12 5 months ago
  13. TheWulf


    I can’t see it leading to a push towards games truly existing only as services because then they’d lose the sales of people who actually pay. When, throughout history, has treating your paying customers like criminals ever actually worked?

    See: XBox One.

    #13 5 months ago
  14. dontbescaredhomie92

    @TheWulf They should really look at revising Godwin’s law for this site, seems to always come down to the Xbox one.

    #14 5 months ago
  15. JB

    About time the wild west period of the digital age was shut down.

    #15 5 months ago
  16. johnwerneken

    About time something intelligent was tried.

    People who have never paid for a product normally available only for sale ought to pay. Those who pay ought to be able to do exactly what they please with it. Including giving away free copies.

    People wishing to exchange such free copies will find a way to do so, including by forming groups for that purpose, no matter what.

    People whom attempt to PROFIT out of running such groups are another matter – these people are properly targets for lawsuits by the people who should be receiving that money.

    #16 5 months ago
  17. greebo2005

    Umm, there has been no change to the laws at all, its just as illegal as it was last week, and its just as possible to be pursued through the courts as it ever was.

    #17 5 months ago
  18. Panthro


    Care to iterate on your disability? if you don’t mind that is, I’m interested.

    #18 5 months ago

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