Digital Economy Act - What The Letters Should Say

Some time in mid-​​late 2011, p2p file sharers in the UK will receive letters warning them that if they ignore this and subsequent warnings, they will have their internet bandwidth narrowed, or be disconnected for a period of time. Last week I wrote an update on the DEA, where I stressed that it will be very easy for the accused to avoid future detection rather than adopting legal alternatives. Here I will outline how the letters can avoid this scenario.


The fans who read this letter will hate the writer as soon as they start reading. It should be a letter that explains what alternatives are available, with no legal jargon, whilst explaining why file sharing damages artists. Threats should be saved until the end of the letter.  Subsequent letters will allow the chance to get really shitty. This seems obvious, but shockingly it won’t be to everyone.

Dividing the Accused

One solution will not suit everyone. Make sure each group has been considered, and has access to info applicable to them.

Kids & Teens. They are answerable to their parents, not the law. Make sure that the parents can learn all they need to about what their children have been doing, and why it is wrong. Offer family packages for services that parents can pay for and control, that the kids use, at an introductory price.

Students. They are time rich and cash poor, surrounded by the knowledge they need to easily avoid the pirate police, and you’re not going to stop them. However, getting them on to legal services early is essential, mainly because they will soon have more disposal income than any other demographic group, and their habits should be nurtured accordingly. Younger and older relatives also look to them to keep  up with current technologies, giving students more power to spread trends and change accepted practice. Which service do you want them recommending, legal or illegal?

Young Professionals, Over 30’s, and beyond. They have money, but need to be convinced to part with it by understanding that they don’t need to own everything they listen to. All of the generic points written here will particularly apply to young professionals, because they were written by one.

Companion Website

Money needs to be spent on making this more than just a letter. A website (heavily fortified against a DDoS attack) allowing for a deeper interaction with fans is a definite requirement. Here, information on all legal services can be offered in more detail, with a deeper explanation of the issues at hand, access to free trials (see below), and a simple Q&A to ask who the accused are, their thoughts on the topic, and what they intend to do.

Legal Incentives

Convincing some demographics to go legal will be tough. Here’s some things you can do to help, all of which can be outlined on the letter or website.

Convincing Students. Partner with student brands to offer discounted legal services to them. Upon opening my first student bank account 10 years ago, I got a railcard for free. But imagine how much cooler a heavily discounted Spotify subscription would be, for both me and the bank? Use We7 to make a ‘clubcard’ scheme, where anything (books, PC’s, clothes) bought on campus or at affiliated student shops earns points towards ad-​​free listening or credits to buy tracks. Have student tours sponsored by a brand and a music service, offering discounts through competitions that inherently spread the word. Have Spotify installed on every computer, but have premium installed on just a few in a prime spot in each computer room. Students will queue to use these, and after a few sessions will become accustomed to ad free listening, and tell their friends. Yes, the services themselves will need to start these initiatives, but they should be told that they will get heavy promotion when the letter is sent, and beyond. Everyone wins.

Free Trials. Fans don’t know how good these services are because they haven’t tried them, and neither have their friends. Show them, and they’ll get hooked. Point fans from the letter to the site, where they can enter their claim reference number, choose their legal service, and redeem a free trial or credit WITHOUT the need for a credit card. Be creative and make contact with fans in other ways, not just through the letter. One major record label is now selling t-​​shirts in high street clothes stores, making the first direct contact with some estranged music fans in years. Offer discount codes  for streaming sites on the tags, or link to promotions using QR Codes.

Payment methods. Almost all services require a credit card, completely unacceptable when you consider how few of the accused will actually have one. In the letter highlight iTunes gift cards, the We7 balance system, the mFlow ‘earning’ credits idea, and anything else you can launch in the time (PAYG and contract phone payments … maybe??).

Mobile. Within 12 months, mobile file sharing apps will be prominent on Android phones, the fastest growing type of Smartphone, so this is a race against time. Highlight how music can be streamed on the go, and give them a chance to try it out using the options above. Listening to music permanently stored on phones is about to get easier, not harder, but right now there is an opportunity to convince people otherwise. Do it now before time runs out.

And that’s all. Are you expecting one of these letters, don’t be shy now? If you get one, what will you do? Do you already browse the web anonymously? Let me know in the comments below.

One Comment

  • thats all fine and dandy if you listen to indie and other forms of mainstream music but the fact remains that the majority of quality non-​​mainstream music is still not available on spotify and those other services

    so i dont think i will ever subscribe to these things as it offers only a fraction of the music i listen to

    basically many people are happy if they could find 3 out of 5 albums of a particular artist on spotify, for a serious music lover its just not good enough

    to conclude this whole story:
    spotify and similar services are only good for casual listeners

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