UK ISPs will be starting to send out “educational letters” to their customers that have been identified as downloading copyright material from the internet without paying for it.

As part of the UK government’s attempt to crack down on piracy, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, and Sky have agreed to send the missives, which will be emailed rather than posted.

This controversial move has been years in the planning, with some experts believing that it’s too late to be an effective deterrent.

The campaign will be launched on 17 January by BT, Virgin Media and Sky. TalkTalk are rumoured to be sending out their letters at the end of the month.

It is claimed by the BBC that a sample letter which has been seen reads:

“Get It Right from a Genuine Site’ has been in touch with us.

“Get it Right is a government-backed campaign acting for copyright owners who think their content’s been shared without their permission.

“It looks like someone has been using your broadband to share copyrighted material (that means things like music, films, sport or books).

“And as your broadband provider, we have to let you know when this happens.”

It then provides a list of the content in question and directs users to a website with “tips and advice on how to stop it happening again”.

Immediate Action

The government’s plans to crack down on piracy were tarnished by so-called speculative invoicing, whereby a number of law firms sent bullying letters to individuals accusing them of downloading content, including pornography, for free.

The letters threatened court action unless a one-off fee of about £800 was paid.

However, many legal professionals have said that such cases could never be proved, due to the fact that the owner of the broadband connection may not be the same person who had downloaded the content in question.

The plans to send out letters to people identified as net pirates were first agreed back in 2014.

Get it Right from a Genuine Site insists there has been no delay to the plans.

“The educational campaign has now been running successfully for over a year with the educational email element beginning during the early part of 2017,” said a Get it Right spokesperson.

Get it Right monitors peer to peer networks for illegal downloads.

However many newer forms of consuming content free of charge, such as streaming and cyber-lockers, are not included in this campaign.

Add-ons such as Kodi and other set-top box softwares that allow users to stream pirated movies, sport and TV programmes are also excluded.

Editor of piracy news website TorrentFreak, Ernesto van der Sar said: “Over the past several years most pirates in the UK have shifted towards direct download and streaming services.

“Since the piracy alerts only target peer to peer sharing, they will have less of an impact today than they would have had a few years ago.

“Due to the relatively small number of notices that will be sent to users and the fact that there are no consequences for getting ‘caught’, I expect the deterrent effect to be minimal.

“As for the educational part, most pirates are already aware of the legal alternatives.

“They simply have no desire to pay or can’t find what they want on authorised channels.”