Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK are backing a government anti-piracy plan that follows months of discussion with the film and music industries.

The six biggest ISPs are supporting the initiative which will begin with letters being sent to customers whose accounts have been used for illegal downloading and file-sharing.

The letters will concentrate on informing customers about the law and the dangers of file-sharing rather than making specific warnings. It will also point to legal alternatives.

They are expected to make clear of the responsibility of account holders for their IP address, and that may mean that parents are responsible for illegal downloading from their children.

The initiative - to which BT, Virgin Media, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse have signed up - will initially focus on music. It will was unveiled by the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform.

A separate education and information initiative from the film industry has also been announced.

The sanctions against filesharing and illegal downloading that will follow the awareness campaign have not been decided and will be a matter of consultation between rights-holders and ISPs.

ISPs have resisted government proposals to close accounts of illegal downloaders but are willing to talk about other possibilities including reducing bandwidth and suspension of accounts.

Government Business and Industy Secretary John Hutton said the proposal was an 'intelligent approach to tackling unlawful file-sharing by industry and ISPs.

'It tells consumers what they can do, rather than just what they can't.'

John Woodward, Chief Executive of the UK Film Councilalso welcomed 'a significant step forward.'

'For the first time the creative industries, ISPs and Government have come together to tackle the growing problem of illegal file-sharing.'