back to article Virgin warns 800 punters for file-sharing

The BPI has written to 800 Virgin Media customers warning them to stop sharing music files or risk losing their broadband connection. The letters came in an envelope marked: "Important. If you don't read this, your broadband could be disconnected." But Virgin told Radio 1's Newsbeat that the phrase was a mistake and the letters …

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Sam

Way to go

First Phorm, now this...BT and VM seem to be intent on corporate suicide!

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Dead Vulture

Shooting their feet off.

I know at least two VM customers who have swapped to Sky because of Phorm. Threatening their customers as well isn't going to improve matters.

A dead vulture, because there isn't a dead virgin icon (I don't think Paris qualifies on either requirement)

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Alert

Wow? Really??

This is akin to the TV Licensing of accusation of breaking the law before actually checking whether you have or not. A sign of the future?

Then again, even if he DID download said Wino song it was probably at 2kbps due to VM's throttling techniques. I am a VM customer and even though I like the service they give but HATE the customer service (last week I had my broadband disconnected due to an unpaid £49 bill even though my account was £49 in CREDIT, they had two accounts for me apparently but I only have one service from them... go figure) they did seem to provide me with a wireless router preconfigured with ok security and with username/password of the router different to the routers default. So if someone did hijack that dudes wireless then Virgin may be using rubbish key generation algorithms (sound familiar??) Ho hum... I will go back to downloading now, talking on El Reg is taking too much bandwidth...

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Unhappy

Vote with your chequebooks

The fact that my ISP might be monitoring what I'm doing online - regardless of what that is - gives me the willies anyway. Yes, I know, that's the society we live in, but why should it be? Personally I will always subscribe to the ISP which gives me the greatest privacy, period. Moves like this from VM simply guarantee that they won't get my custom. If enough people avoid or leave their service over this issue, perhaps they'll get the message.

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Stop

Is this something VM and BT should be doing?

I was under the impression that BT and Virgin provide a broadband connection from your computer(s) to the internet?

If that's the case, then why are they now acting as the police? Should BT send letters to customers who download terrorism manuals, or do we leave that to the police?

Virgin and BT are only doing this because they've been given some form of incentive by the BPI.

If BT and Virgin can't provide a connection to the internet without pimping out your personal information to companies of dubious morals (Phorm), and without bowing down to the corporate bullies in the BPI, then why would anyone use their service?

Unfortunately, I'm stuck with BT for another few months, but you can bet I won't be sticking with them once the contract's up.

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This will NEVER work.

Assuming 63% of people DO download music illegaly (only 63?)

I doubt virgin are going to agree to disconnect 63% of their customers, doesn't seem to be in their best interests now does it? Same goes for all other ISPs. They aren't going to do this en-masse. They MIGHT keep sending out warning letters and disconnect the heavy abusers, but any more is just insane.

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Unhappy

Need a new ISP

So far this year they have

1: lost customer bank details:

http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/news/news.phtml/15633/16657/Virgin-Media-massive-data-loss.phtml

2:attempted to miss-sell broadband speeds: http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/news/news.phtml/15820/16844/asa-upholds-bts-virgin-complaint.phtml

3: started throttling download speeds:

http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/index.cfm?newsid=13228

4:Increased prices with sneaky letters like this:

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=772163

and now this :(

Yup time for a new supplier.

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Anonymous Coward

I

work for another ISP who was approached by the ButtPhuqIndustry. we said we would not police their frontier.

my general advice to customers is.. 'it's bad don't do it as there's a risk of bad stuff... lawyers and virus etc..Also, that said, it's up to you. Do the Water companies tell you what to drink/we're just the pipe?'

people understand this. And often appreciate it when spoken in those terms. You've advised them of possible issues and left the choice up to them. Many times it's the kids doing the download and the parents don't realise some of the possible consequences..

As for Virgin and such, don't they have business interests in the music/media industry they have a vested interest in protecting?

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Anonymous Coward

Hey music biz, I have money, sell me something I WANT!

I went through my Amazon wishlist last night. 80%+ of the CDs were "not currently available". I would pay money for them if they were easily available, but they aren't. What's a person supposed to do? This isn't antique stuff, but it is more than three years old, and therefore part of the much-talked-about (but never actually delivered) Web 2.0 "long tail".

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Dead Vulture

Way to go #2

...whilst the other ISP's stand on the sidelines p***ing themselves laffing and rubbing their hands at the influx of fleeing BT & VM customers.

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I use Bittorrent

But I don't download music with it, havn't seen a letter yet but if i do i shall be annoyed.

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Dead Vulture

one more loop on that noose

well once they've finished tying that great old noose round their corporate neck, i'll get in the queue to pull the leaver and terminate the abomination its become.

they seem to be playing russian roulette and adding bullets for kicks...

..out source tech support to ibm in india

...charge premium rate for tech support

...throttle users at peak time for using what they thought they'd bought

...phorm

...nasty grams

i make that 1 more for a 100% chance of blowing their heads off, unless this is being run by darwin award nominees, then they're probably loading up a berreta

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Data Protection Issues?

Are Virgin sharing client data with the BPI? If they are doing so without permission, is this not a breach of the Data Protection Act?

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Anonymous Coward

VM aren't intent on suicide.

It's more like a 5 year old at the helm of the space shuttle. They aren't trying to hurt themselves, but they're hopelessly out of their depth. They seem to want their company to be an integral part of their cusomters lives. they don't seem to realise the only time people want to hear from their ISP is when they get a bill.

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Anonymous Coward

All in all just another brick in the wall

People are suddenly going to learn about encryption.

And it is not hard to randomize the ports a bit as well, or just shove it all out on port80.

So, what is going to happen, encryption tends to occupy more space though not necessarily, and even encryption is not actually required, just a form of random encoding, where the encode key is taken. Steganography is another option.

Or and I know this is radical, but the music industry gets a freaking clue, and starts to distribute their music at a price people are willing to pay for it. Hire a load of people in new media and get working on how to achieve this.

I cannot help but think if the people behind the torrents had a stake in the industry they are leeching off then it would just stop. The music industry doesn't have enough friends in the tech industry, they need to stop bogarting the coke, get out there and do some smoozing.

Most of the sheeple just want the music, and if little timmy can use his pocketmoney to buy it, he will do just that.

Yes, all production companies of anything that can be digitized have to have substantial invest in the technology we call the Net, instead of spending all their war chests on lawyers, they could have owned and be operating a few ISPs by now.

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@ By David Buckley

in fairness to virgin

"...charge premium rate for tech support" - that is bollocks mate - dial 151 from a VM phone - its free!

as said before they do own a lot of music - so its in there best interest to stop this also i guess...

ive just gone from 2mb to the supposed 10mbit but only get ~4mb now... although if i unplug my gateway router and go direct i get another 1mb to 5mb - wtf is that about?!?!?! lol

least its free to call them and when i did last week they answered in about 1 min! which was impressive!

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Misconception

BT and Virgin are throttling their internet services to make more room for their on-demand TV services, NOT to stop file-sharers etc. However, they should only throttle the internet of people using TV, not every user on their network. It's a very short-sighted and unpopular approach (how about investing in infrastructure with all that money we're paying you?)

Regarding these letters, I'm in agreement with the posters above - It isn't the job of the IPS to police what their users do. We pay for a connection. You give us a connection. End of story. It's like the electric company throttling your electricity supply because they don't like you using Playstations on it. It's none of their business.

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@Neil

Not as I understand it.

The BPI send IP addresses to VM that they suspect and VM send the letters out.

Since details have not been passed to a 3rd party no DPA has been broken..

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Anonymous Coward

HAHA

that's what you get when you go with one of the large ISP's - I have little sympathy.

Although it is sad that such large wealthy companies get kicked around by such shitty worthless thieves, but hey ho.

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this is a title...

@Neil - Supposedly, the BPI are sat with a running version of "aTorrentTracker" and looking for "latestCrappyRelease". If they confirm that it is copywrighted (by d/l I suppose or comparing hash numbers) then they have a look at all the ip address contected to it. Copy these and do some matlockery to see who the supplier is then boom, call up their buddies at BT/VM and say "at this time this ip address was sharing this, do something" and BT/VM bend over backwards...

With VM adsl atm and I will be leaving them as soon as I decide weather I'm moving house or not. Still limited to what I can get but hey, anything is better then nothing and everything is better then VM :)

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Anonymous Coward

Lots of Virgins

Virgin Media doesn't own lots of music. Companies that use the Virgin name and logo have only the very loosest connection. Branson sold Virgin Records to EMI in the early 90s when he needed the money for his airline.

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Flame

Wow

So many clueless Reg readers.

1) This is nothing new, media companies have been monitoring public file sharing for years and forwarding letters to the offenders via their ISP's

2) Virgin Music is nothing to do with Virgin Media and is owned by EMI.

3) Virgin Media is NOT responsible for securing your wireless connection.

4) Virgin don't throttle for extra on-demand bandwidth but more internet bandwidth. VOD on Virgin is broadcast and uses a completely different frequency than broadband and so throttling one has absolutely no impact on the other.

If the ISP's themselves don't start to act then we'll end up with government imposed legislation, tax on blank CD's and internet connections to compensate or litigation against individuals for theft. Which would you rather have?

I'd rather have the idiots too dumb to avoid public filesharing getting disconnected than any of the above.

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Thumb Down

That's it. I've had enough.

I'm leaving them. I'm completely fed up with their continued piss-taking.

I'll be calling them this afternoon to cancel. If anyone else wants to do the same, here's the URL for your account cancellation:

https://client.virgin.net/cancellation/number

Good luck.

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BPI - Bunch of Phooking Idiots?

These guys really get on my box.

As far as I am aware, it is currently illegal under UK law to change the format of CD/Vinyl? album to mp3. That is, if you have bought a Wino CD, it is currently illegal to upload it to your iPOD.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/cyberclinic-is-it-really-illegal-to-rip-a-cd-to-my-computer-769184.html

The BPI dont seem to mind you breaking this law as it may mean that you did in fact buy the original. Yet these muppets seem to pick and choose which law they wish upheld and which ones can slide. They sit there whinging like a petulant brat that the cocaine is being stolen from their clients noses and have made zero effort to make a difference in this respect.

In their eyes ISP's are responsible for individuals who break the law on their infrastructure or who are using the ISP's 'product'. Does this mean that the Highways Agency are responsible for individuals who break the law on their infrastructure? No. Does this mean that the motor industry is responsible for individuals who joyride, ram raid shops or use their products in daring robberies? No. Does this mean that Kitchen Devils should share some of the responsiblilty for the recent spate of stabbings? No. In ALL cases it is the Police who are responsible for upholding the law and investigating breaches of it.

I applaude the ISP's who have dug in their heels and told them to f-off. If the BPI want change then they have to change the mess that currently is UK Digital Media copyright legislation yet they are entirely reluctant to do so preferring a back door approach that in the end will accomplish nothing.

Media should be licenced like software, one purchase (not buying it on vinyl and again on CD and again for digital downloads - who do you think we are, idiots?) and if you delete it, lose it or corrupt it then you just download it again for free because YOU HAVE ALREADY BOUGHT IT ONCE!!!

I will change my attitude to this when I see an 'educational correct usuage' letter going out to all of Kitchen Devils customers but until then wipe the crap out of your eyes BPI and stop whining.

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You get what you pay for

When I worked for a large ISP with a three letter name, we had a rolling programme where staff would go out to punters homes to talk about their experience using the intertubes.

As well as current and ex members, we talked to competitor members too. All the NTL (i.e. Virgin) people universally said that they hated the poor customer service and poor quality of service - but the killer was that none of them would switch. Cheap and all bundled together with their telephone and TV, none of them could be bothered to switch to a better provider.

My personal opinion (and I may not have a typical attitude to saving money) is that my Internet access is really quite important to me, so its worth spending a little more for better service. I can heartily recommend a smaller ISP like Zen - who seem to win customer satisfaction awards every year.

One positive outcome for BT and Virgin is that by getting all pally with the BPI and acting as copyright vigilantes for them, many of their heaviest downloaders will take their BitTorrents to another ISP like TalkTalk. "Bad" customers go away of their own accord, plus, they get gold stars from the music biz and Andy "eyeliner" Burnham. They may never get to the point of having to kick downloaders off their network - neato!

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Black Helicopters

Virgin Media = muppets

I have VM, I think I will be moving in about two months after the 12 month contract runs out. I tried to set up a Direct Debit and they have failed to do so despite 3 attempts (telling me that my Barclays branch sort code is wrong, despite 4 other Direct Debits set up and working fine). I have had TV and Broadband service disappear for days (usually have service interruptions to broadband once a month and TV service interruptions about once every two months). Their cable boxes look like shit and their program guide looks like a fugitive from the 80's, the remote control is counterintuitive (or maybe I just got too used to the SKY remote) and my one squeaks when I press buttons.....

On the plus side they set up a Usenet server for their customers and I have managed to download movies at 2.5MB/s (20Mb service) .... but I have to say i am a bit worried about them possibly knowing exactly what it is I am downloading (but i did read somewhere that usenet servers do not record who downloads what)

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Anonymous Coward

3 strikes = 2 fake claims + 1 claim (which may also be fake)

Well a 3 strikes rule could never work, because the copyright nazis would simply make 2 false claims against everyone since there's no penalty to them for making false claims.

The 3rd claim could also be weak, because the person accepted the first two claims without raising a stink, and using the Blair 'no smoke without fire' thinking, this is the 3rd such claim.... and they did sort of accept blame on the previous two by not objecting loudly to the first two....

I really don't know what Virgin are thinking, perhaps they have too many subscribers and want to shut up shop and go out of business? Even sending threats to their customers, even if they haven't agreed to 3 strikes, this has to rank among the dumbest corporate moves ever.

Coldplay have just made the record for the most downloaded album (paid for) ever with their latest, they had a big success with a freely downloaded promotional track. BPI (British PHONOGRAPHIC Industry) has long lost the plot.

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Coat

just to set a few things straght....

virgin media or any other isp will not, and do not hand over your personal info. they do not monitor what you are downloading.....

a 3rd party will grab your ip address when you are sharing illegal content. they trace your ISP from the address, and write to them giving times and dates and what is allegedly being shared. your isp will then write to you with these allegations...

as far as i know, nobody has been cut off, and if they are, i would like to see how well it stands up in court.

mine is the one with the torrent logo....

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@ AC

"People are suddenly going to learn about encryption.

And it is not hard to randomize the ports a bit as well, or just shove it all out on port80."

WTF is that going to do? Virgin are just looking at the amount you are downloading, not what your actually downloading, so encryping it will not make a blind bit of difference.

Besides, Encrypted Torrent traffic still looks like torrent traffic.

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Black Helicopters

What's the alternative?

I am (currently) a VM customer. I like the TV, on demand service and it is not sky. I don't use the phone line so still have a BT line. So, we have throttling, Phorm, and now this! My point to VM is that I am their customer (ie. I pay them money for a service) , and I have no relationship with BPI, so why would I thank/commend VM for a letter on behalf of a company that 'says' I have been downloading illegal files regardless if I actually have or not! They don't seem to get it - this is crazy and I am looking for an alternative. Any pointers?

My concern is that all/most of the ISPs are going to accept this as de facto behaviour when plainly it is just unacceptable. Encryption is one option, but not for bittorrent trackers, or do I roll over and let VM tickle my tummy because they know what is best for me!

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Stop

Presumption abounds

Christ on a bike, when will people inform themselves. Firstly VM and BT are not 'snooping' on you. The BPI are joining torrent swarms and p2p networks and downloading files - if they collect IP addresses along the way belonging to VM/BT they contact the ISP to send a letter to the customer (whether they are responsible or not). Secondly, encryption will not protect you from this, you're IP is still visible to the BPI if share a file with them. You can:

Use an IP filter - probably advisable but I wouldn't be surprised if the BPI are wise to this. If they are working hand-in-hand with VM/BT what's the chances they are using IPs supplied by those ISPs?

Use Tor/I2P/Ants or another anonymous network though each brings its own issues.

Use binaries instead - this way you're not uploading anything, only downloading, and at whatever speed your ISP can provide ;-)

Not use file-sharing software for illicit purposes. What was that? Yeah, same to you buddy?

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Anonymous Coward

VM service

I left VM in May, largely due to their intent of using Phorm. I cancelled the Direct Debit with the expectation that, if I owed them any money, they would let me know; an invoice perhaps for one month of internet access. Almost two months later however, I received a letter from a debt recovery agency claiming that they are agents for VM. Still no invoice. I do not want this to queer up my credit rating and have consulted the CAB and arranged a visit to a solicitor. In the meantime I have written to the debt recovery agent to avoid the real possibility that they will add on 'administration charges' for non payment of the alleged outstanding amount. I have written to VM asking why they chose to ignore usual business practice of sending an invoice to advise their customer of an outstanding debt and requesting settlement of it before bringing in heavy handed debt recovery agents. Perhaps they are unhappy about losing so many customers?

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What a load of crap

Brief history of the Internet:

1989 Some geeks invented a way to transmit information via a telephone based land line to other geeks across country creating the first ever version of a peer2peer network. Ok they may have not created it for their mates to bootleg music, porn or movies but its the same concept...

2008 - Some big group of geeks create the ways and means to make information freely available to the net for EVERYONE. Everyone has a choice, do i download or dont I?...

I bet you any amount of bill gates's money (pre Windows XP and Vista of course!!) that 99% of the staff at Virgin, BT, Tiscali, Orange and several other companies all download illegal content to their machines. So why bother with all of this, my theory is thus… AS LONG AS THE INTERENT EXISTS, PEOPLE WILL SEND, DOWNLOAD, COPY RIP AND ILLEGALLY DISTRIBUTE OTHER PEOPLES CRAP...

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Gates Halo

Long live Carphone ..

Ive worked for isps and for webhosts and webhosts need to be policed due to the fecktards who run there phishing sites paid for with bum credit cards, 419 scammers and people writing bad site code that gets exploited by script kiddies, isps on the other hand do not need to police there users as there is enough organisations circulating the web that do it for them. Charles D definitely had the right idea by telling them to feck off! as it nothing more than a waste of everyones money.

Bill, just so we dont forget him now he's doing a lot of good work for charity.

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@ youvegot tobejoking

If you use the virgin media newsgroup servers then yes I think you are safe from BPI etc.

http://torrentfreak.com/isp-to-voluntarily-disconnect-file-sharers-from-the-internet-080331/comment-page-4/

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BPI's two faced lies

Filesharing isn't illegal, it's unauthorised. The ONLY person who can say whether it is unauthorised is the copyright owner. And the result is a civil infraction. This is not illegality.

And if the BPI were sooo shocked by filesharing, where were they when Sony managed massive filesharing of others' copyrighted works in their rootkit fiasco?

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Disconnect them

Virgin are too soft, boot the obvious freeloaders off the network, that way those of us who use the higher speeds legitimately won’t be capped. I find it hard that people are anti this strategy even if you are an illegal downloader hogging the pipe surely you can see what you are doing is wrong and selfish.

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Torrents

If anyone is kidding themselves about illegal downloads, they're still illegal and you shouldn't be doing it.

On the other hand.. Vidalia.

But yeah.. getting caught if you're doing something you shouldn't be doing does have a sense of inevitability about it.

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Whiners

I have no problem with them booting the freeloading p2p'ers off their network, if that is indeed what their planning. Why should my connection speed suffer when I choose to buy physical media over free virus ridden poxy quality downloads from torrents? I liken it to digging through your neigbours stinking bin to find yesterdays paper.

Phorm is another matter entirely - suffice to say I hope they never ever consider it again. Ive no cause for complaint otherwise.

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@AndyC

Problems:

a) it is not illegal to take the work if you're the copyright holder

b) it is a civil tort to infringe on copyright

so (a) means that there's nothing wrong here for downloading.

(b) means that they can ask for damages. Which for non-commercial file sharing is about, ooh, £0.

Now if they can find out others who DID download it but

a) didn't have the music in another form ("you bought a license, not a DVD!")

b) still kept it

c) can be reasonably expected to be able to pay for it

then they can target the downloader.

NOTE: this is where it gets even sillier:

Our filesharing is illegal because we're making available without license.

AllOfMP3's filesharing is illegal because they are selling with a license.

Oops.

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Edd

@Brian Gannon

"Virgin are too soft, boot the obvious freeloaders off the network, that way those of us who use the higher speeds legitimately won’t be capped."

Why are they freeloaders in the context of virgin's bandwidth? Yes they don't pay for the music, but in terms of utilising network resources what differentiates their use from your 'legitimate' use?

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Alternative provider

I'm moving to a non-cable area, and was actively considering o2 as my other half has it at her place and it's fantastic service (although zero points for my mac not being able to connect to their wep-secured wifi - doesn't help that gf won't let me change the key cos her pc is happily on there). However cos they haven't enabled as many bt exchanges as the competition I'd have to pay a tenner a month more (even as an o2 mobile customer).

VM has only been glitchy once or twice for me in the years I've been with them, and it tends to be a UK call center when I ring them as well :)

Why can I never think of an icon with a whitty reason for it dammit...

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Alert

Oh dear..

@ wow - AC

"If the ISP's themselves don't start to act then we'll end up with government imposed legislation, tax on blank CD's and internet connections to compensate or litigation against individuals for theft. Which would you rather have?"

- compensate for litigation?? what are you on about. A tax would *legitimise* filesharing.

@ Brian Gannon

Filesharing - legal or not does not make up most of the traffic clogging 'your' pipes. Youtube et al overtook it a while ago. Besides, it's none of your business how others utilise their bandwidth.

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Re: 3 strikes = 2 fake claims + 1 claim (which may also be fake)

If the BPI do accuse you of file-sharing and you think they’re in error, can you sue them for defamation? Previously, we had solicitors taking the legally correct route, although one that was much more problematic for those accused. They would go to court and ask for an order compelling an ISP to hand over the account details associated with a list of IP addresses at specific times. They would then make the accusation directly to you. By going through the ISP, the BPI risk lowering the reputation of those customers in the eyes of any right-minded ISP.

Would the BPI want to go to court and have their evidence tested or would they be happier retracting the accusation and paying you compensation?

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Flame

Short Sighted

Brian Gannon, I don't care what you download or how much bandwidth you use, only what I have paid for and the service I either am or am not receiving. The issue is not about bandwidth c*ck, but rather how VM are (ab)using their position in colluding with external companies with whom I have no relationship who apparently can tell VM that I have been a 'bold boy' regardless of wheter or not I have.

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Paris Hilton

@Chris

Whiner.

Why should it matter to you if Phorm changes advertising on pages you download? You didn't visit that page purely to see the ads!

And why should my payments to the ISP go up just because you don't like Phorm?

(note, no sarcasm tags available, more's the pity)

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Go

RE: Disconnect them

Here, here...

79p from iTunes it ain't going to break the bank freetards. And if more people downloaded legally maybe the price would come down a bit more.

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VM phone service sucks too

Clearly Virgin Media dont want you using your dial up line for P2P work, or it would be reliable. The best bit: since yesterday, Virgin Phone customer service has been offline. Anyone with a virgin mobile phone should try dialling 150 to see this. How can you report a broken landline to the telco when their own call centre is off the net?

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support calls again

"dial 151 from a VM phone - its free!"

Yes. The support person even informed me that I could have called them for free, if only I was using a VM phone instead of my mobile. Which was pretty infuriating, given that I'd just painstakingly explained that the problem I was reporting was that my phone line wasn't working. ARRGH!

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Alert

Cocks

If the music industry sorted itself out properly they wouldn't have to resort to these tactics.

Being a 40-something guy, I don't have much interest in most of this new fangled pop music but like to catch up on some old 80s favourites that I missed the first time around. Where can I get them? Why should I have to buy a whole album just for one track? An old album at that......

If I go out and buy a second hand car I don't expect to pay full price for it as it's older. It should be the same for music. They should introduce a sliding scale for music based on age of the song. I'd be quite happy to pay 5 or 10p for a long forgotten track from the 70s or 80s but I wouldn't be happy having to pay a quid for it.

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