Victory for the pirates: Streaming and downloading ‘decriminalised’

Government backs down on stricter internet piracy laws in favour of sending letters and taking no further action

Streaming films and music online is no longer a crime under new UK laws.

According to new regulations, people who persistently stream pirate videos online or download unlawful torrents will now only be punished by being sent a series of warning letters, with no further action.

So you won’t be prosecuted for that dodgy copy of Kung Fu Panda 2 on your hard drive, or for that S Club 7 album you got from Kazaa 10 years ago.

The new scheme, named “Voluntary Copyright Alert Program” or VCAP, is set to begin in 2015 and aims the make people more aware of legitimate streaming websites, such as Netflix.

Kim Dotcom became a cult hero among internet pirates after the US government seized his popular streaming site Megaupload in 2012

The new legislation comes after years if deliberation from internet service providers, politicians and various big wigs from the film and music industry.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of UK music trade body BPI, said: “VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It’s about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice.”

He added that VCAP was about “persuading the persuadable” and suggested it was to help people, such as parents, who do not know what is going through their router.


Previously the government hoped to impose stricter regulations on internet users by monitoring file sharing as well as giving internet providers the power to shut down users’ connections.

Last year figures collected from Ofcom revealed that one quarter of internet users would stop illegally streaming if they thought they were at risk of being sued, but only 1 in 5 would stop if they received a letter from their service provider.

Demonstrators protesting The Pirate Bay raid in 2006

A student from Nottingham Trent University, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes that this new system will not deter, but perhaps encourage more illegal streaming.

She said: “People don’t watch films illegally because they’ve never heard of Netflix, they do it to avoid costs. Now people know that punishments for illegal downloads are so small, they’ll probably do it more often.”

Most of the major internet providers, including Virgin and Sky, have already signed up to VCAP and most others are expected to follow shortly.

Do you welcome the new laws? What do you think should happen to file sharers? Let us know in the comments.