back to article Virgin Media and BPI join forces to attack illegal filesharing

Virgin Media will launch a campaign against illegal downloading next week, when it’ll begin firing off warning letters to subscribers the BPI believes are sharing copyright music files. The move is being billed by the cable firm as an “education campaign”. At this stage there will be no “three strikes” process; customers who …


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  1. Mark

    What about legal filesharing?

    And how do they tell the difference?

    And while we're on the subject of VM figting crime, when are they going to stop the fraudulent misrepresentation of broadband providers? This one should be easy to ensure: DON'T LIE TO YOUR CUSTOMERS!!!

    Sheesh, that one requires them to do less work, so should be a shoe-in.

  2. keith
    Black Helicopters

    dear oh dear

    virgin are really pushing there luck with there service first they bust peoples internet speed now there joining forces with the bpi to stop downloading haha this gets worse by the minute i wouldnt waste my time with virgin i feel sorry for there customers if i were you id leave virgin quick and fast join another cable isp oh wait i think virgin is the only cable provider damn thats bad luck least sky dont report me for what i download have fun virgin youll end up out of buisness you will loose customers

  3. Gary
    Paris Hilton

    When my mum recieves this letter...

    She'll ask me about it, worry for a minute that she's doing something wrong.

    I'll calm her down and assure her nothing bad will happen, then go upstairs and carry on downloadin'.

    To cut a long story short, this wording in those letters may have been simplified, but many british internet users don't know the difference between illigal file sharing and general browsing of the net!

    I still get people asking me if their parents can see which websites they've visited by looking at the bill!

    Paris, cos shes got a video thats a popular p2p download.

  4. Greg

    I wonder if I'll get one...

    True, I'm not sharing any music.

    Yes, the data tearing out of my server day in day out is encrypted.

    No, it's not on a standard port.

    But when was the last time any of that stopped the record industry? Look, he's serving lots of traffic! HE R STEALIN OUR MONIES!!!11!1!!

  5. Anonymous Coward


    How does this sort of affair hold up to encrypted torrent traffic?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Oh well

    Oh well. If Virgin get to antsy I will finally change my ISP after 12 years.

  7. ShaggyDoggy

    Huh ?

    How can they tell the difference between a legal BitTorrent and an illegal one ?

    Oh sorry yes of course silly me, all BitTorrents contain illegal material, it's obvious.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now its really truely unlimited

    What the fxxx are they doing ? first throttle your usage, now they are going to scare the shxt out of file sharers, it may be unlimited, but whats teh point of giving you a Porsche but first electronically cut your speed limit to 30mph after 50 miles, then telling you you can no longer drive on roads they dont want you to drive on ?

  9. dervheid
    Thumb Down

    Ooh, scary...

    an "education campaign"

    I wonder what exactly you do get with "PCGuard, our suite of security services"? (Phorm, by any chance?)

    Just how many people that recieve this letter will give any consideration to installing that.

    At a guess - zero.

    Just another waste of trees, as the 'freetards' ain't about to give up.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    It's a joke...

    No wait virgin is the joke, the bpi are serious.

    When they start making reasonably priced music that isn't shite, like anything from a reality contest I might start buying albums again, I am sick of spending 12 quid on a cd where only one song is good.

    I would ask though if they differentiate between sharing and downloading. One thing to download and keep, another to share for uploading by others.

    Also are they bothering with movies.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Steven Mileham

    Straw that broke the camels back?

    Right, so this, plus the recent bandwidth throttling? Anyone know if I can use this to end my contract with Virgin now? I hear that O2 offer a good 20meg broadband connection service...

  13. David Simpson

    Peer Guardian ?

    *cough* Peer Guardian *cough*

    Pity I wanted a BPI letter to display on my dart board ;-)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark: What about legal filesharing?

    Easy, just monitor illegal torrents and not linux distro ones :P

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish that we could turn off unlawful filesharing for a month

    to see what effect it had on music revenue.

    My bet is zero.

    The BPI and its members will get no more revenue than they do now, possibly even less, when "try before you buy" users like myself simply no longer buy.

  16. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    Re:dear oh dear

    ***"virgin are really pushing there luck with there service first they bust peoples internet speed now there joining forces with the bpi to stop downloading"***

    You forgot about their intention to spy on their customers with Phorm.

    Actually the Phorm system is an ideal way of spying on which files VM customers are picking on BT tracker sites.

  17. Mark

    Hey, BPI

    I have completely legitimate content from BitTorrent.

    Sure, they are pirated music, but the content was placed on BitTorrent by MediaDefender, an agent for the RIAA who is the agent for the copyright owner.

    Since the labels maintain that the only reason for putting stuff on BitTorrent is to share it with others, the material they put up there through their agents has been placed there BY the labels for sharing.

    And you are allowed to share content where the copyright owner has given you permission.

    Therefore, the copies I have shared with the world are copies that have permission and no copyright has been infringed without license.

    Sure, maybe Media Defender no longer shares it, but that doesn't stop me sharing it. The license is not rescinded.

    I have some videos there too, but these movies are from MiVii, an organisation that shared movies until it was found out that they worked for the MPAA and were therefore, just like Media Defender, agents of the movie distributors and copyright onwners.

    So no copyright infringement there.

  18. Andraž Levstik

    And then came anonymous p2p

    And then came anonymous p2p... or vpn's with certain smaller trackers... and it all went underground again and nobody is the wisest....

  19. Christopher P. Martin


    I'd be more inclined to take notice of your comment if it (a) contained any punctuation or capitalisation, and (b) demonstrated at least a tenuous grasp of the English language. My apologies if I have misunderstood, and that actually your keyboard is broken and you're still coming down from a week-long Red Bull and speed bender.

    However, I agree with what I think you are trying to say. Virgin keep giving me more reasons for considering other ISPs.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    VM and Phorm same PR plan

    IS K*unt advising VM on how to increase market share, and improve the users broadband experiance.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    BPI letter misleading !

    They claim it's illegal to download music files.

    It's not.

    I'm perfectly free to download mp3, ogg or flac tracks of an album I have purchased under the fair use provision.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how they do it........

    its simple they connect to the dodgy torrent tracker, which then tells them all the IP addresses downloading and seeding that file, so you can in turn can download chucks from them. i believe it will tell them how complete your copy is to.

    encryption doesn't work for this as the payload is encrypted not the routing information (which cant be encrypted else routers can route it).


  23. Neil

    Send a letter to themselves

    Ok, it's not music, but their own news server contains many downloads that could be considered illegal - TV shows etc.

  24. Why
    Black Helicopters


    it wont make any difference, encrypted stuff will still get you done over. They are searching for IP as part of the torrent swarm.

  25. Erwin Blonk


    According to media companies we all are thiefs, that's why some countries, like mine, have a tax added to recordables etc that goes to a fund to re-imburse those entitled to royalties (or so they say, they don't have to disclose their finances). Never mind that I don't do illegal downloads and only buy music from the likes of MagnaTune, which means, when I burn a CD for myself, as expressly permitted by their license, money goes to an organization that the artist I bought the music from gets no penny from. BPI and their foreign counterparts must be laughing all the way to the bank: collecting money from non-offenders who buy music from artists that take a stance against the old music industry. It's like the Axis getting paid by the Allies.

    My only consolation is that they get less money of off me than they would if they weren't behaving like idiots, criminalizing every one while stealing their money.

  26. stranger on the road

    title goes here

    "There are now so many lawful cheap and free music services out there" ok but are you willing to sale to us? oh wait... you are talking about selected countries right!

    any way, there is a miss concept here that *ALL* p2p traffic belongs to BitTorrent p2p protocol. You do realise that there are other p2p protocols right? Also not all illegal download are done using p2p, the web can still host files the last time I checked.

    @I wish that we could turn off unlawful filesharing for a month

    I've asked a few people if they will buy music if they didn't get the option to download them (not via p2p for your information) and the answer was simply "No". They have no extra money to pay for music, so if they can't get it off the net they will not get it, the have better things to do with their money then buy music and the radio is there to play music in the background when they work.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Monitoring of filesharing networks...

    As used by BPI, RIAA et al has been proven to be highly unreliable, spoofable and cannot be relied upon. See the full report here:

  28. Mark

    "I wish that we could turn off unlawful filesharing for a month"

    Well, Oink was closed several years ago and it was "a major contributor to the filesharing damages". The net effect of removing them? Nothing. Revenue did not increase.

    As to following the dodgy tracker, well there's a problem there too. And this one can (like the above) be read about here on El Reg: Media Defender put "illegal" content in a legal tracker. If the legal tracker cleans up, it gets DoS'd.

    So no, they don't connect to the illegal trackers.

    Another problem is that they will be sharing the tracked items. And that then is permission (because that's the only use of BT) to share the tracks they are torrenting.

    This kind of legitimises the torrent and so illegal transport is no longer there.

  29. Les Matthew

    Re: BPI letter misleading !

    There is NO fair use provision in the UK.

  30. Scott K

    I've thought up a new Virgin Media Slogan

    Virgin Media, We're only virgins because it's the customer that gets screwed.

  31. paulc


    I'm going to run torrents of legal music from sites such as

    SXSW ,


    and see if I get hit with a C&D warning letter...

  32. Anonymous Coward

    maybe this will help

    failing that, bail to another ISP... come on people, it's about time!

  33. Shakje


    back to warez sites hosted in Uganda?

  34. frymaster

    @Andy and Why

    Thanks for the straight-forward explanation. This is why a) encryption is pointless (as I explain a trillion times a day to ONE FRIGGING GUY on IRC) unless you're worried about your ISP intercepting and recording your bittorrent traffic (unlike Phorm - very possibly illegal and certainly immoral, doing that would be VERY illegal and would be leaked in about 0 seconds), b) legit torrents are safe, and c) why I don't get people moaning

    The argument seems to be "How dare I be held responsible for the consequences of my actions". Can someone please explain how that works? And yes, I do torrent, and yes, not all of them are legal and yes, I'm with VM (have been since the cableinet days)

  35. oliver Stieber

    the thing about bit-torrent

    The thing about bittorrent is that you can't tell if a torrent is infringing copyright till you download it all so they can't really prove that you had knowledge of the illegal nature of the torrent.

    Also, I run an open network. what happens if my neighbour was the one downloading all that illegal stuff.

    I would prefer a law, at least I can get around that. Some self-righteous idiots cutting off my internet connection are a lot harder to bypass.

    TUX, coes I think all my torrents are open source

  36. Mark

    @Les Matthew

    There is, however, a Turning Copy available in the UK.

    Since breaking encryption on your DVD's to make this copy is forbidden in the UK, you must get it from someone else who has.

    A torrent, for example.

  37. Jonathan Richards

    @Mark re Hey, BPI

    I don't think copyright licensing works the way that you think it does. Just because you obtained something once from a legal source doesn't give you the copyright permission to duplicate and send copies on to world+dog willy-nilly. Disclosure isn't like the GPL, you'd need a formal licence agreed between you and the copyright holder (or an authorised agent), so good luck with arguing in court that "they wanted me to share it".

    IANAL, obviously.


  38. Aaron
    Paris Hilton

    Its quite simple

    The copyright holders can connect to a torrent (have it set to not download anything or at least not share upload anything). Then list each and every IP that is sharing a complete file or completed torrent. Your encryption and your peer guardian does not offer any real protection from this, as they can see in unencrypted form what you are sharing now much and if they wanted connect via an unlisted IP address and download from your encrypted data.

    If you download a torrent but down upload anything you will probably be safe, as they have to prove you don't own a legit copy and are just downloading for fair use. But Fair use does not allow you to upload data to other users so its those that upload data to other people on the torrents that they are going after.

    Sure there are many other ways of getting music off the internet other than torrents (god know's I wouldn't bother with torrents myself), so this action wont stop downloading. Instead it will scare a lot of people who don't know any better and thats exactly what VM and the BPI want in this case.

    Paris because I think I should have fair use of her ;)

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I was cloned!

    Isn't the virgin network full of cloned cable modems anyway. So I'm right in thinking Virgin Media couldn't actually 100% prove it was you anyway.

    I'll be sending them a letter back if I get one. My modem must of been cloned!

    Didn't the EU propse the three strikes are your out rule and it was defeated. the governmen knows it's unpopular so would never pass it. You try and find me one person on the planet who has never illegally

    Phorm, limits, bandwidth throttling, I live close to an exchange that will get me ADSL2. Please it's becoming an easy decision!

  40. Chris Cheale

    @There is NO fair use provision in the UK.


    - that's exactly what I was going to say.

    Although it _might_ be about to change, it has always been illegal (in the UK) to copy music you own from one format to another - whether it's copying vinyls or CDs you've bought to tapes or MP3s (to listen to in the car or whatever) is irrelevant - the copying is illegal.

    Since (the original) Napster was shut down for _inducing_ copyright infringement - why has no-one taken Microsoft to court for having the "Rip" function in Media Player? Surely that's inducing (UK) copyright infringement?

  41. Slaine

    read the second bit carefully

    "It's a bit of a judgement call for us to be making threats of disconnection or account suspension" ... given so many of our customers are already leaving in droves because of the way we handled phorm, the lack of support reported by our many customers and our steadfast refusal to address the con of quoting "up to" connection speeds that cannot be realised unless you are inside the data centre or on the other end of a darkfibre.

    Now then, the second bit; anyone wishing to make a one or two fingered gesture to their ISP (particularly in this case VM subscribers who have an alternative option). No contract is legally binding unless it specifies exactly what the deal is that you are entering into AND carries your signature. No contract is legally binding if it has been changed in any way since it's inception. Any letter advising you of a change to your service (including changes to T&C's, free upgrades, extra email addresses - ANYTHING) is also an admission that your contract is no longer valid. No ISP will admit this because they know that they haven't got a leg to stand on and that is why they immediately drop your details off with "Hound, Grabbit & Run" debt collection and threat dissemination agents rather than chase the bill themselves

    If you can show the slightest change in your service, change of supplier, deterioration in the quality of your connection or the removal of any facility that was part of your original agreement then you have the right at any time therafter to contact your ISP and inform them that their contract with you has been broken by them and that on this basis it is no longer valid or legal. They CANNOT dispute this fact. Provision of these details to the abovementioned "Hound, Grabbit & Run" will also see them off.

    Then if they fail to play ball, call your bank and halt the DD; call BT and have them change your number (to free up your MAC address); call your alternative supplier and give them the new BT number.

    Worked a treat for me when Tiscali tried to fuck me over.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    It's quite ironic when Virgin have just (quietly) launched their new Usenet Newsserver, which is stuffed with illegal binaries...

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Ah only music their after! arrrrgh!

    I shall be fine to carry on downloading my pirated software then arrrrgh! to be honest the music industry has been wank for years, i havn't bought nor downloaded anything that has been made for the last 2 years due to it being all shite. It's the modern day chavs who have joined the interweb for their cheesey popcrap music that shall be affected. Ha i don't care.

    I'll be glad to get a decent level of bandwitdh from them when you have all abandoned ship. I do prefer the days when the net was for hackers and leetest, now it's full of nubs.

  44. Pat

    still not getting it

    How the BPI must hark back to when they were young, those hazy days when teens queued up to buy records and the product was really desired. The majority of what they make now is disposable pap; we know it's easy to make, we can run the software on our own PCs; we know the so-called "artists" are mostly nothing of the sort; and we respond in kind - 95% of when they make is just throwaway entertainment that is not worth more than a few pence per track. To pretend otherwise is bullshit and while many are bullshittable, most are not.

    The BPI seem to think that if they could just lock it all down, people would come up with a sizable percentage of the money it would have cost to download all that pap. They're wrong, most of us won't spend much more than we're spending already, they just don't have enough wothwhile product to make us want to buy it.

    They should not be scared of downloading and sharing, they need to worry that people who have access to good quality copies of pretty much any music they want often can't even be bothered to download most it for free.

    New Coldplay album? Who needs another one.

  45. Michael

    Its going to be educational

    ....for VM, when their customers start migrating :

    The economic climate is tough, customers will be questioning wether they REALLY need VM's services,and it's a known fact after Pipex , Tiscali et al , that the hard line causes customers to flee en mass, like rats up a drainpipe.They want your money, but so also do the BPI.Vote with your feet.... it's the only way to be sure!

  46. John Robson Silver badge

    @AC - re Fair use

    "I'm perfectly free to download mp3, ogg or flac tracks of an album I have purchased under the fair use provision."

    There is no fair use under UK copyright law - that's a US thing.


  47. Lul Whut

    [BTH] Rare Oop Electro Core 12" (MP3, V0, LOG, CUE)

    They are just going to scan the swarm of largest torrents on the largest of trackers.

    If you are downloading some new movie or pop album then you may get caught up in the trawl... a hint perhaps to listen to better music or use PG or private trackers! (Though there may be spies amongst them...)

  48. stephen mcconnell

    what about all the cloned modems

    i know that a while back you could get a cloned modem for 30 quid, dunno about now tho, so what if someone has a cloned modem and is filesharing with your ip address on thier cloned modem, your gonna get screwed and as always the pirates anit gonna care cos the ip is registered to someone else.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    A few answers

    A visit to several previous BPI and/or VM posts on lotsa boards supplies a few answers to the questions raised on this board.

    How it will work:

    Someone working for the BPI will download a torrent listed as something that is copyrighted to the BPI, say the latest Coldplay album, and make a note of and log any ip addresses from seeds/peers that are also sharing that torrent and check them against VM's IP listings. Lisitngs that do not show, user details.

    If the torrent turns out to be real, i.e. it is Coldplay's album and not a piece of virus ridden Spyware, than the the IP addresses that the BPI have noted will be passed to VM, thereby VM get round those pesky data-protection laws, because they're NOT handing over free access to their user accounts (at least at this stage).

    VM will check those IP addresses and if they are indeed VM's then they will send out a warning shot - i.e. badboy, don't do it again - and place a flag against your account.

    A second infringement will get you a nastier letter (and presumably a bigger flag) and a third time will get you cut off from VM and your details handed to the BPI for a REALLY nasty letter and possible legal unpleasantness.

    By doing it this way VM can argue quite successfully that they're both protecting their users' accounts from the BPI and also stopping illegal activity, without having to scrutinise every 'packet' that crosses their systems.

    In addition as the BPI are effectively downloading files that they own, they're not breaking the law, even though they're using the same process as the torrenter (is that a real word?) They are also not seeding the original torrent, so they can't be accused of Entrapment.

    The UK and European Data-protection acts have a myriad of clauses that allow for data-protection laws to be over-ruled in the case of suspected illegal activity by an individual, (especially concerning anti-terrorism laws, but 'general' illegal activity as well) and before any American's start laughing, I'd just like to point-out that USA did have tougher rules than us, but then the Patriot Act came along . . . and data-protection over there is now a contradiction in terms! Remember, what happens here happens there next week . . . be warned.

    The upshot is:

    a) This is actually a very elegant and effective way of stopping illegal activity, without stopping all torrenting activities. Much as I might dislike it, I have to applaud the simplicity of it.

    b) This might be viewed as a great way of getting out of VM's long-term account sign-up - if you don't mind the risk of a big ol' fine and a possible holiday at one of her majesty's fine correctional facilities that is.

    c) Peerguardian type stuff won't work, because they only stop lists of known IPs from monitoring your traffic, or bounce you round a series of worldwide servers so you can't easily be tracked, but in the end you need a real IP (which is shown in just about every torrent client) to receive/share a torrent unless 1 or 2 kb per minute download is something you really really really enjoy, as the Tracker will not be able to verify you and deal with you accordingly.

    d) Newservices such as are going to have a very lucrative time of it, because your IP isn't shown to anybody else when downloading.

    Bottom line:

    If you don't want the consequences, stop using P2P illegally (at least if you have a VM account) or go 'old school' and start using a newsnet service. Perhaps one like VM's own at

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are iPods legal?

    Is it legal to rip your CDs to your iPod? In the strict eyes of the law or the view of the BPI? Shows how behind the times they are, clinging to an old model to strain as much revenue from it as they can.


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