Virgin Media in new anti-piracy deal with Universal Music

Virgin Media has announced that they have struck a deal with Universal Music that will offer Virgin Media broadband customers unlimited music streams and downloads, at the cost of a monthly subscription fee. In return, Virgin Media will launch a new campaign to educate its customers about piracy, and introduce new measures to tackle those who illegally distribute Universal Music's intellectual property.

The music service will allow users to download and stream as much music as they wish, and allow them to keep what they download, permanently. In addition, users will also be able to copy the music to any device which can play MP3 files. For users that don't download enough to make the cost of the unlimited package worth it, an entry-level package will be available. Virgin Media are also looking at working with other labels to offer a wider range of music.

In return for gaining access to Universal Music's music collection, Virgin Media will be cracking down on pirates who distribute Universal Music's music using their broadband service. In their press release, Virgin Media explicitly state that they won't permanently disconnect their users; however they will suspend access if users repeatedly share music - although they state that this will only be used as a last resort.
"This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access," Virgin Media said in their press release.

While many internet providers and anti-piracy organizations have proposed more severe solutions, Virgin Media (in the deal with Universal Music) have decided to take a less severe route, and in addition said that the process of discovering users who illegally distribute music using their service will "not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media."

Although just how Virgin Media will discover users that are illegally distributing music using their broadband service may bring up a few concerns, many will see the deal as a way forward for both consumers and record labels.

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28 Comments

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I assume you could subscribe to it for one month, download Universals entire catalog, then cancel the subscription the next month? Of course that wouldnt cover new releases though.

I've actually stopped downloading music since I've began using spotify - for me it's perfect and I'll be paying £10 a month for that as soon as it's available on more devices!

As for this - In my opinion £10-£15 a month is a lot of month just for Universal's tracks. If it included other record labels and eventually included the huge selection of Spotify I'd be at it like a shot.

I can see one main problem with this.

I mean, yeah, I guess its good someone is stepping forward and trying to understand piracy instead of tackling it head on....

But until we actually start seeing the action Virgin Media are going to take, are people really going to sign up and pay for something they can download free?...albeit illegally.

The other issue is whilst they are trying to appeal to people's needs by offering them a legal way to get music, they are also doing it to try and make a bit of extra cash.

So, when other labels join in there are gonna be 2 possible outcomes.

1 - The price stays the same, meaning more money to more labels, meaning less and less money for Virgin....So how committed will they be if they are only making a tiny profit?

2 - What if they don't want to make a tiny profit, and decide to start charging to download from each label?

All I know is, the chances that I've just talked a load of crap....is quite high

well piracy can't be stopped there will be poor and other who just won't pay like Third world places where income is small and not everybody can afford to buy all the main reason DRM is making all much expensive and in result piracy will only grow more ... not everybody will pay for game over 40 dollars .. if it would be cheap i think it would change economic situation in World Wide Piracy System and Economy .

Games and music are luxuries. Not necessities. Even then, stealing is stealing.

If you can't afford the game, then find a friend you can borrow from or deals online. Save money for music content. It's not that hard people. You can't justify stealing of any kind, just because you can't afford it. It's a dollar a song for crying out loud.

also, to the comment on the DCMA and the US ISP's cracking down on people by their IP - there are ways if people are determined to route the traffic through so many untracable hops that the feds never find them. IP tracing is horrible as IPs are not assigned like MAC addresses, house addresses or landline phone numbers. for $15 a month you can get broadband speed elite anonymous proxy services that has a minimum of 4 hops before connecting to the host.

Either way, this is a step in the right direction.. DRM free, keep as long as you want play on anything is better than any other DD (digital distro) method I seen.

If its not debugged or has some qwerks thats expected... 'high end' music should be what is bought retail, like 5.1 channel recordings, or lossless compression formats. MP3 and digital distribution suits 90% of applications for the end user, and a small monthly fee is better than people using limewire or torrents to get their stuff and not giving the companies a cent.

Piracy don't have to be fought, but understood. At least some companies are putting their foot forward on the matter.

Quite honestly universal music along with peers sony bmg, emi etc should just shut up shop, they are irellevant in music industry now and should just stop causing a fuss and acting against consumers based on their own needless greed.

And I wish everyone would stop calling this "piracy" it isn't.

This is FILE SHARING.
BOOTLEGGING is when people copy, master, and sell the content illegally.
PIRACY is what's happening off the coast of Somalia.

The problem is it's still fragmented. You get access to some content, but not all.

Users would have to do their homework and figure out what they can and can't get for free, and that's just more effort than is likely to work in the real world.

Lant said,
Why not just just get a spotify subscription for £10 a month and be able listen to lot more music?

While I'm an advocate of Spotify, and while this only includes Universal's music, this allows you to download and stream music, whereas Spotify only allows streaming. Admittedly, this only benefits those who want some of the benefits of Spotify while being able to listen to those tracks on the go.

I'm already sometimes annoyed by that Spotify doesn't have all the music I want, so I'd never jump onto this. :S

Sure, nice to have downloads, but availability is paramount. I don't want to juggle with multiple services to keep being legal either.

This seems like a small step for the music industry. But will this become a new business model altogether? It is a nice concept, but will the music be only downloadable from central servers provided by Virgin or can it be still be shared between users in a p2p fashion? That would be an advantage since it would be offloading the servers. The only problem would be to only allow Virgin users connections in the p2p client.

Eventually the "sharing" part of this won't matter. Once every one of the five studios has a blanket deal in place, it won't really matter. The studios will be making more money than they have in a decade (since no one buys their shovelware music anymore), so they'll be happy.

New artists can chose whether to be part of the machine, being ripped off for pennies on the dollar in exchange for marketing dollars, or whether they want to make 10x as much money but work harder to get their names and music out there.

It's the future of digital distribution. The studios are just libraries now so they should move to blanket licensing deals with ISPs or customers the way all those horrible cable channels no one ever watches do.

The identification of pirates has not changed, and is not performed by Virgin Media.

This is how it is, and how it has been, for all ISP's and content owners for a while now:

1) Content owner (such as Activision) or external party (such as MediaSentry) discover that their content, or their clients content, is being shared illegally.

2) IP addresses are gathered by the content owner or external party and submitted to the IP addresses ISP.

3) The ISP will react accordingly. In this case, it is assumed that Virgin Media will take a tougher stance on the IP addresses. However, it is important to note that the external companies have no idea who the IP address actually is, and identify their ISP by doing a simple IP check, which anyone can do.

So, in short, Virgin Media are doing nothing more to identify pirates, only taking a new approach to the IP addresses submitted to them.