Tens of thousands of UK households could soon receive letters from their ISPs asking them to stop sharing music illegally in an anti-piracy deal brought forward by the government under the pressure of the music industry.
Six of the biggest Internet service providers - BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse - have already signed up and could potentially see a repetition of the witch hunt process that hit thousands in the US although the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) seems to be more user-friendly compared to its American alter-ego, RIAA.
"Informative letters" will be sent to internet users whose accounts have been identified by the BPI as being suspicious; there are around six million illegal filesharers in Britain according to the latest estimates with most of them younger adults, coming from a generation where games, music, films and software is generally regarded as "free".
Alternatively, ISPs have already committed themselves to launching legal music services; Sky has already released an Online MP3 service which should soon be emulated by other Internet Service Providers.
The agreement though is said to stop short of any threat of disconnection as it is the case with the "three-strike and you're out" approach adopted by France; after all, companies are not willing to throw out customers especially in the cut-throat business of Internet broadband.
The "stick and carrot" approach may or may not work depending on whether the stick is sufficiently painful and the carrot equally attractive.