UK pirates will merely receive warnings from next year

Harsher penalty plans abandoned; no sanctions for ignoring new alerts system

UK households that repeatedly pirate music and movies online are to receive warning letters beginning in 2015.

The voluntary copyright alert programme (Vcap) will see up to four such warnings issued annually to individuals if unlawful file-sharing appears to have taken place on their broadband connection, but there will be no sanctions for ignoring them.

Game of Thrones is among the most-pirated TV shows

The alerts will be informative in tone rather than accusatory, offering advice on where to find legitimate sources of content.

Vcap is part of a new scheme, Creative Content UK, jointly devised by content owners and internet service providers (ISPs) with the aim of promoting legal entertainment online. It will be supported by a joint creative industry and government three-year education campaign set to launch before spring 2015.

Harsher penalties for persistent piracy, such as internet access being cut off, were originally outlined in the Digital Economy Act 2010, The Independent reports. However, these were shelved due to what secretary of state for culture, media and sport Ed Vaizey labelled in March as "significant technical obstacles".

Business Secretary Vince Cable said this week: "The creative industries in the UK are one of our brilliant global success stories. We have unrivalled creativity - from record breaking musicians to box office films - that excite and inspire people all over the world. Yet too often that content is open to abuse by some who don't play by the rules.

"That is why we are working with industry to ensure that intellectual property rights are understood and respected. Education is at the heart of this drive so people understand that piracy isn't a victimless crime - but actually causes business to fail, harms the industry and costs jobs."

Figures published in September 2013 by media regulatory body Ofcom suggested almost a quarter of downloads in the UK infringe copyright, with just two per cent of UK internet users accounting for almost 74 per cent of online piracy over a year.