People in the UK who persistently pirate music and movies will soon start getting emails warning them that their actions are illegal.

The warnings are part of a larger scheme that aims to educate people about copyright and legal ways to enjoy digital content.

Starting next year, up to four warnings annually will be sent to households suspected of copyright infringement.

But if people ignore the warnings, no further action will be taken.

The warning system is the result of four years' wrangling between internet service providers (ISPs) and industry bodies representing music and movie-makers.

The original enforcement regime was outlined in the Digital Economy Act 2010 and called for persistent pirates to have their net access cut off after a series of warnings.

In addition, rights holders wanted warning letters to mention the potential penalties people would face for copyright infringement and access to a database of known illegal file-sharers.

The years of talks brokered by the government have led to the creation of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (Vcap) that uses warnings via email or post.

The UK's biggest ISPs - BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky - have signed up to Vcap. Many smaller ISPs are expected to join later.

In addition, the UK government has pledged to contribute 3.5m to an education campaign that will promote legal ways to listen to music and watch movies.

BBC News