Online Game Piracy Decriminalised In Britain

Piracy is a worldwide problem, with many games, movies, and songs being downloaded illegally, meaning that developers, film crew and artists may be losing out on some potential revenue. Previously, there was always the worry in the UK of action being taken against you, but this is now no longer the case.

The British government has started a scheme – named Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) – which is a punishment free anti-piracy measure. That means you’ll be sent up to four warning letters, detailing how your actions are illegal, but no further action will be taken.


Naturally, this seems to make Britain a place with much more freedom, allowing people to choose whether to pay for their content themselves. While that may be the case, it’s bad for creators who may find that a high percentage of their games or other media is effectively stolen

This isn’t an ideal situation, but then again neither is extortionate fines or jail sentences for downloading copyrighted content without paying. To me, it seems almost like a cop-out to delay proceedings even further. What do you think?

Source: VG247



  1. Along with this, TPTB are trying to find some way to stem the income that “pirates” make by making this material available, maybe this would be a better approach.
    Worked with pirate radio, to an extent anyway :)

  2. Even if the process seems lenient it is far better than the previous behavior of dubious lawyers (ACS:Law) sending demands for sometimes thousands of pounds to the connection owner someone who had no idea what was happening on their own network.

    I haven’t yet heard of a good and fair process for both parties. I would have thought some method where you are automatically charged the true value of the item downloaded would be the best way (I.e. value of a bluray / dvd series). There are so many legal ways to listen to music and watch movies nowadays.

  3. I have never illegally downloaded a game so im OK there.

    Though I do admit to movies and music back in the day, however most I will buy if i like, so the companies are making money from me they would normally lose as I wouldn’t go and buy a boxset on a risk.

    I guess they will go a bit harsher on those who are sharing mass content though? ie 1000s GB a month and such.

  4. I think this is a good idea, to me piracy is something you just cant win against, its been around as long as its been possible to record media and always will be, so why waste resources trying to fight it.

    There have been lots of studies on both sides of the argument, nearly all of which are biased in some way, so it cant even be determined if it costs the industry anything at all. While I’m sure some revenue is lost, there is evidence that people who pirate, also tend to spend more (on other games) and my guess is that the ones that lose are the ones that produce bad games.

    Of course, wrapping your game in DRM and chaining it to a bad online service makes a pirated version more attractive too, so maybe there’s something that could be done there.. Ubisoft.

    • “piracy is something you just cant win against, its been around as long as its been possible to record media and always will be, so why waste resources trying to fight it.”

      You could say the same about quite a lot of crime really, but I bet you’d be pretty peeved if you got murdered & no-one bothered doing anything… because its been around as long as its been possible to kill people and always will be, so why waste resources trying to fight it.

      Well ok, probably not peeved as you’d probably be dead n all, but the point remains the same. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you should just give up.

      • @Forrest_01 Yes but a crime is something that personally affects *someone*, there is no real evidence, as said above, that downloading pirated copies of games (or other things) actually does affect revenue.
        If someone is *never* going to buy a game then the playing of it without paying for it isn’t actually depriving the creator of anything. Clearly it’s morally wrong but it’s not the same as stopping someone else paying for that copy.
        Go after the uploaders and sharers, the ones who facilitate piracy and especially the ones who are actually making money out of it.
        If there is no money to be made, or if it becomes too difficult to make money then the easy availability of this material will stop.
        Of course the key is in finding a way to do this.

      • I wasn’t suggesting that you shouldn’t fight piracy because its been around for ever, I was suggesting you shouldn’t fight it because its an unwinnable battle. Actually, reading it back, it does come across that way tho.. :\

        To me, its like the War on Drugs, It’ll never be won and throwing money at it, wont change that. Some people will always do drugs and some people will always pirate stuff, the solution is how best to manage that.

        This is why I like this new approach, the only time piracy hurts a games revenue is when somebody was going to buy the game, but then ended up pirating it. These are the people, this can reach. The people who were always going to pirate it, will still pirate it, but so what, they were never going to buy the game anyway, so the game’s publisher has lost nothing.

        And yes, I would be peeved if somebody murdered me, but it’s hardly the same is it?

      • Oh, please. Not the “I wasn’t gonna buy it anyway” argument… If that’s the case, why are you playing it? You can always wait for a pricedrop, sale, humble bundle or free with gold/plus. But you don’t want to wait? Then you already have enough incentive and interest to buy it.

        I find it’s become a lot more convenient to not pirate. Whereas that used to be a main argument for pirating.

      • Actually, Kenny, I used to have oodles of copies of games back in my teenage years simply because I didn’t have any money to spare. I’m really not joking. None to spare to even save up. However, now I’m a adult with a source of income, I love buying games. Buy all of the ones I fancy playing. Also, all of my own non-gaming software (inc. things like Windows 7 Pro, etc). A few friends were in the same boat and I’m not sure any of them pirate anything either.

        For me, it’s about having the easiest platform available to me (now) which is why I find the likes of Steam, PSN, etc., a joy to use. Although, I concede that console game prices have a long way to go to please me like the PC offers do.

        There is music I’ve listened to (more recently) that I’d categorically say “there is no way in hell that I’d pay for it” as it simply wasn’t good enough. However, when something’s good, I hang onto that artist’s output for dear life as I have a very restrictive taste in music. Paying for good stuff is lovely.

        @Plutonium – Thing is, we know it affects the industry but we just don’t know how much. It’s simply unreasonable to say that all piracy consists of people who were never going to pay anyway. No matter the proportion, it simply isn’t going to be 100% of all pirates.

        World of Goo (on the PC) was pirated 900% more than actual sales. Were most people going to buy that? Probably not. However, it was a reasonable price and shutting down the pirate channels means they might have doubled their prices (a reasonable 100% increase) if a sliver of those folks thought “you know what? I will buy the game. It highlights how half the battle is access and not just the price.

      • Well that’s an interesting point, the amount of sales such as Humble Bundle and the Steam sales probably do the more to deter piracy than anything else, purely as it gets people who wouldn’t have bought it to just buy on impulse for a few quid.

      • I used to do a fair share of pirating myself, at one point the majority of my games were such copies.(Today I don’t have any, unless there’s a hidden stash on one of my external harddrives) Having an income does make a helluva difference, and I’m sure most pirates are teenagers without a financial torrent.

        These folks I can relate to and understand, but I think there’s a lot of people who download just because “why should I pay money?”. Many start off in one camp and end up in the other, myself included.

        But I think, when you get to that point, it’s clearly morally wrong. That, along with my dislike of jailbreaking my devices, led me away from continuing my Guybrush Threepwood ways. And now, I make up half of Norways NPD salesnumbers. :-P

      • I’m with Kenny on this and have been having this debate with a few others…

        How can you say “they’d never buy it anyway”? If the option of piracy wasn’t there, if they wanted to try it they’d have to pay for it… They can pirate it so they will. Why spend money when they don’t have to? Whereas if they had to spend it they more than likely would…

        I’m not saying I’m squeaky clean and have never pirated anything, but like a few others have said, it’s nice now I’m older to be able to build my collection of legitimate games/films/music/whatever as something I can keep and enjoy for many years :-) piracy really gets my back up in my old age :-P

  5. UK government pledging £3.5m towards sending letters to people who are savvy enough to use torrent sites, telling them that there is ‘such a thing’ as Netflix. Bravo.

    • Isn’t the £3.5m for some sort of “awareness campaign”? Sending the letters is presumably being paid for by the ISPs (well, their customers in the end) and the government is giving away a big chunk of money for what will probably be yet more “You wouldn’t punch a horse in the face, so why do you steal our stuff? Is it because you’re a terrorist?” style adverts.

      Maybe Netflix (and Amazon and other streaming services) could spend some of their own money to educate people about the alternatives which are available? Oh, wait. They do.

      • Yes those ads are really annoying. Especially the unskippable ones on dvds/blurays… DONT PIRATE THIS MOVIE… well no I wont, I just bought it duh. Same when they’re showing them at the pictures… preaching to the choir bud, I just bought a ticket.

      • Ah, but without those anti-piracy ads at the beginning of movies, you would not have one of the funniest moments of the IT Crowd.

        Still can’t watch a proper one now without hearing that version in my head. :D

      • Just googled it. So funny hahaha :D

      • I came here to drink milk an kick ass,and i’ve just finished my milk

  6. As people have said, piracy often has huge cultural & creative benefits too. Hip Hop was born via the illegal sampling of funk/soul records, as a very crude example.

    • Personally, I feel we have been pushed towards ‘digital everything’ by companies who don’t want distribution/manufacturing costs, and as a result, have almost welcomed piracy. Now they are turning to, some would say, inferior products (F2P, IAP, pop-ups), to try and curb the piracy that they indirectly encouraged in the first place. And it’s always the end user who suffers! Everything seems so disposable these days, and who honestly wants to pay for that?

    • Good point, and I think piracy has encouraged more communication, in the form of pleasant engagement as well as promotion, between games developers and their customers. Indie games particularly will lose big revenue to piracy, but well promoted ones will claw plenty back from fans that have been well earned. The music industry has learnt the same lesson, you hear interviews from lazy artists who don’t make the effort to get a grip on social networking or fan engagement and they winge about piracy, but equally you get bands who embrace piracy as a form of publicity and instead of stopping to complain they work hard to overcome its effects by doing gigs and distributing free tracks. This letter news is a bit limp, but generally I think we see an encouraging level of pirate fighting (arrrrr!) which is giving a good moral steer to the kids growing up in the internets. Most of us have done it, hopefully we can be forgiven, the most important thing is that we understand why we must grow out of it.

      • …and support what we love!

  7. Is uploading and being the one who shares still illegal?

    • I’d like to think so, fella. They’re (hopefully) concentrating on the drugs equivalent of the “dealer” not the consumer.

    • Uploading _and_ downloading are still exactly the same as they were before.

      It’s not helped by words such as “decriminalised” being thrown around either. Or by law being complicated.

      Downloading something you shouldn’t isn’t a criminal offence. Probably. The police won’t come and arrest you and charge you with anything. The copyright holder could take you to court though to demand compensation. And that hasn’t changed. They still could. It’s still not legal. And it’s not been decriminalised, because it wasn’t a criminal offence in the first place. Although some people might want it to be. Which could be what people end up pushing for once this silly scheme fails completely.

      Uploading things is also exactly the same as it was before. Illegal, and a criminal act (usually fraud, isn’t it?). People have been arrested for such things. Only if you’re doing it in a big way. (And even then, on very suspect grounds. Torrent sites that don’t host anything they shouldn’t, just tell you where to get it)

      So basically, nothing has changed. Except someone has made £3.5m out of it.

  8. I buy my games disc based but for some I have downloaded a digital copy in case of scratches or damage. I was under the impression that even before this it was legal?

  9. If your in the Uk try playing the warning game.How many are directly in front of you?I can see five without moving.Nationally there are two orange alerts,warm weather and an increased risk of terrorists.Take a day off work and try going through a newspaper and counting warnings,try any room in the house or even your shed.

  10. I think it’s a bit odd to think that any Western country would outright “decriminalize” piracy. The title is outright misleading and untrue imo. Here’s an article I just read on the subject:

    It’s even got sources. No, piracy is not legal.. It’s just going to be not as enforced. They’ll still keep the logs though just in case they need to track a pirate down.

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