Entertainment and music industries in the U.S. are hoping that a "notice and notice" program which sends warnings about illegal downloading will deter internet users from sharing copyrighted material.

Telus says it passes on these notices, mainly from movie and software industries, to alert its Canadian customers that their IP addresses have been identified for potential copyright infringement.

Spokesman Shawn Hall says the company simply alerts customers of the allegations and does not provide personal information to the complainant. He maintains that many people are surprised to find out that copyrighted or illegally downloaded material is even on their computer.

"Sometimes we find that there's someone in the household who's maybe doing something that the account holder -- so Mom and Dad -- might not want to be happening," he told CTV's Steele on Your Side.

Sometimes customers learn they have an unprotected Wi-Fi network and one of their neighbours is illegally downloading, Hall said.

It could also be something more sinister: "Maybe they have a computer virus or other malware on there," he added.

A Steele on Your Side viewer named Andrew wrote in after saying that he'd received a notice from Telus alerting him that a copy of the movie ‘Thor' was detected on his laptop. He wondered if Telus was going to take action against him.

Telus maintains that it will not hand over personal information, such as user name, address or other confidential information, without a proper court warrant, but it does warn that producers can take legal action against consumers if they're illegally downloading copyrighted material.

There are also other risks associated with illegal downloading -- it's one of the most common ways to contract a computer virus or spyware.

Earlier this month, Shaw Cable said it would begin sending out notices to its internet customers about their illegal downloading. The move follows a request to the company from Warner Brothers Entertainment asking to remind its customers that copyright infringement is illegal.

Canadian internet users are tracked through their IP address when they download material.

More than 100,000 "notice and notice" alerts have been sent to Canadian internet users over the past five years. The program widely differs from the "notice and take-down" approach used in parts of the U.S., where many internet service providers are forced to remove the illegal content of their users.

Every Friday Consumer Reporter Lynda Steele dips into the viewer mailbag and answers a handful of viewer questions. Watch CTV News for more...