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Virgin Gets Tough on File-Sharing

As part of its deal with Universal Music for an unlimited music download service, the U.K. cable operator also will crack down on illegal downloaders

Virgin Media could start suspending persistent file-sharers on a temporary basis, using information provided to it by the Universal (VIV.PA) record company.

The ISP announced on Monday that it would, before Christmas, launch an all-you-can-eat music download service for its users, based on a monthly subscription fee. The tracks will all be DRM-free.

"In parallel, the two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music's intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorised distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media's network," a statement read. "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 pointed out that "no customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media".

A spokeswoman for Virgin told sister site ZDNet UK on Monday that the suspensions "could be as little as five minutes, an hour or a day". She said the idea of suspensions was very much in the process of being worked out—they may not even happen—and would only be launched on a "trial" basis.

As for how Virgin will know which persistent file-sharers it should be suspending, the spokeswoman said this knowledge would be derived from information coming from the record company.

Universal will use technology from the Danish anti-piracy firm DTecNet to scour file-sharing networks—not Virgin's own network—and log the IP addresses of "persistent" file-sharers, along with the time of the transfers in question. That information will go back to Virgin, who will use it to identify the file-sharer and begin warning them of possible action that could be taken against them.

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