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New carrots and sticks in UK piracy battle

08 Sep 2009 | 07.11 Europe/London
A new advertising campaign's being launched to try and deal with what's being called "Generation Y-pay," using soft sell tactics and avoiding the sensationalism of previous attempts. At the same time, it's emerged that a UK law firm could be finally preparing to file its first court cases against suspected online pirates - after sending out hundreds of letters warning alleged file-sharers it would do just that.

"Generation Y-Pay" is made up of people aged between sixteen and thirty-four and, while it may just sound like a clever piece of copywriting, it's backed up - as everything is these days - by some figures. Apparently, while seventy-four per cent of the people in that age bracket agree paying to rent or see films is the right thing to do, only thirty-nine per cent think they should pay for the same content when it's online.

The upshot of this is that the anti-piracy adverts we've become familiar with, running before we watch a movie at the cinema or play a DVD, haven't been having the desired impact. The gritty message that "piracy is a crime" - which on has been purported to be as bad as not only stealing a handbag but also funding terrorism - has now been canned and replaced with a more upbeat one: "you make the movies." It turns out that now, rather than bankrolling an international terror cartel specialising in second-hand purses, we should think of ourselves as being the responsible paymasters of the actors we know and love.

"With the digital revolution set to open up access to more unauthorised film and TV content, it is going to be more important than ever for people to understand the positive connection they have to the British creative industries, such as film and TV," said Liz Bales from Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness. "Our industry must share responsibility for showing the public the positive role they play."

All this means is that we'll now get to see a quirky animation before our feature presentation - and that this'll magically turn "Generation Y-Pay" into, for want of a better term, "Generation Yes-Pay." The new campaign's got the backing of loveable British celebrities like Tamzin "look at me, I used to be in Eastenders" Outwaite, Dominic "I'm secretly from Sheffield, Duck" West (famous for his lead role in seminal American TV series The Wire) and also someone who was once in Strictly Come Dancing. And at the end of the trailers we'll be told via a giant logo, "Thank You." Aw.

"Film and TV is the industry that we as a nation are most proud of, the challenge is that Generation Y-pay underestimates how vital they are to funding future films and TV shows," Ms. Bales continues. "They don't realise that without them [paying for things] great British film and TV couldn't get made."

But while attempts are being made to sweeten the carrot that could lead mislead file-sharers back into the realms of good and holy, there are those who are currently working to sharpen the stick with which to strike the unrepentant. ACS:Law has been sending letters threatening alleged illegal file-sharers with legal action for quite some time, demanding a cash payment to settle ahead of potential cases. However, due in part to the rise of sites like BeingThreatened.com, according to TorrentFreak only fifteen per cent of people are now paying up. In response, ACS:Law says it's prepared to take some people to court.

“The first batch [of] claims have been prepared and were filed at court on Friday, 4 September 2009. Service of the proceedings will be made by first class post and will be with defendants by Tuesday, 8 September 2009 at the very latest,” reads a statement from the company. “The second batch of defendants will be selected on Monday, 14 September 2009.”

It's now a matter of waiting to see if ACS:Law does start sending out court documents, which - if ignored - could lead to major repercussions for recipients. Samknows will keep you posted on further developments.