Online users suspected of illegally sharing and uploading videos, music and other copyrighted material to other users will start to receive warning emails from their Internet service providers (ISPs) from January 2017.
ISPs such as BT, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Post Office and Vodafone UK will be sending these emails to the person named in the household as paying for the broadband account.
The warning email will notify the account holder about the specific TV programme, film, song or digital e-book that has been uploaded and shared. It will also state the time it happened and will confirm that the file is an unlawful copy.
It will have branding and links to the official information page, where readers can learn more about the email, any other recent file sharing and uploading that may have occurred and where to find legal services.
The emails are being sent as part of an initiative to tackle illegal sharing and uploading of content as well as trying to encourage people to get their content from genuine sites and sources.
Importantly, these warning emails will never threaten you with a financial penalty or certain legal action.
If you receive a warning email from your ISP and you’re certain you’ve done nothing wrong, there are some steps you should take.
First, double-check that your wi-fi network is secured by a password.
Even if you yourself have never shared or downloaded a file illegally, it’s possible that someone else using your connection has done so.
You should also speak to any family members who may have been using your internet connection recently to download items.
This could be a younger family member, or even a nearby user (such as a neighbour), who has accessed your wi-fi. If they have used your wi-fi to downloaded files illegally, it is likely that those files are now being uploaded and shared with other users.
Finally, be certain that you’re dealing with a genuine email.
It’s likely that scammers will produce copycat emails, including some which may demand that recipients pay on-the-spot fines for alleged wrongdoings.
If you receive an email claiming that you must pay an on-the-spot fine or penalty, be aware this is probably a fraudster.
If you see an email in your inbox or junk folder threatening you with legal action or financial requests for illegal downloads, this will not be a genuine email from the Get it Right programme.
Here are our top tips to take into consideration if you think the email you received is from a scammer:
1. Ignore emails asking you to pay
The genuine emails from the Get it Right initiative are intended to be educational only and will not ask you for money as a penalty. Ignore any email that demands you need to pay.
2. Be careful with links
Hover over any links within the email with your cursor to see where they will take you (when you do this the url will display in the bottom left-hand corner of your web browser), but do not click on them.
The real email should take you to your ISP’s account area or special Get it Right information page.
3. Is your ISP information present?
A scam email could include the logo of your ISP (eg BT or Sky), but it shouldn’t be able to quote your unique customer number or your full name. Look out for these details.
4. Check the file details closely
The genuine email should reference the exact programme, movie or music track confirmed as shared illegally online, quoting the date and time that this happened.
If this detail is absent, the email may be a fake.
5. Don’t be rushed
A scam email will often try to rush you into acting before you’ve had time to think things through. Genuine emails tend not to use alarmist deadlines.
Through file-sharing services, when a copy of a digital film, programme or music track that is being offered online is requested by a computer (using your internet connection, for example), it is downloaded piece by piece from multiple users who are sharing it.
The person downloading the file also becomes a sharer along the way – the file is on their computer, where it’s then automatically made available for further peer-to-peer transfers.
This means the account that was used to download the file is also offering to upload it to the internet. If the peer-to-peer software continues to run and the file continues to be offered for upload, it is likely that there will be further instances of file sharing. This action may result in emails from the Get it Right initiative – and/or perhaps from scammers.
In this fashion, illegal sharing and uploading of content can become a rampant problem.