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Five US ISPs Begin Anti-Piracy Scheme

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

01 March 2013

After some delay, but given the failure of the United States Congress to introduce legislation to reduce the incidence of online piracy, a voluntary initiative by five internet service providers (ISPs), called the Copyright Alert System (CAS) or the ‘Six Strikes’ response program, was implemented on February 25, 2013.

Digital piracy is said to be a serious problem, with an estimated 25% of all bits on the internet being infringing content. Under the new program, users who are suspected of engaging in peer-to-peer or file sharing of digital music, movies and television shows will receive a series of graduated warnings and educational messages that are meant to educate rather than punish and to direct them to legal alternatives.

It is hoped that the initiative will help consumers to understand the significance of protecting copyright in the digital environment, advise them about the importance of avoiding the online distribution of copyrighted content, and suggest legal ways to obtain digital content.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) joined last year and created the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the purpose of which was to create a network for tracking copyright infringements with implementation through the CAS.

Five ISPs – Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, AT&T and Cablevision – have signed a memorandum of understanding with the CCI to enforce the CAS at provider level. Under the system, content owners (represented by MPAA and RIAA) will notify a participating ISP when they believe their copyrights are being misused online by a specific computer.

The ISP will then send an alert to the subscriber whose account has been identified. The alert will notify the subscriber that his/her account may have been misused for potentially illegal file sharing, explain why the action is illegal and a violation of the ISP’s policies and provide advice about how to avoid receiving further alerts as well as how to locate film, television and music content legally.

The six levels of alerts will be non-punitive, but progressive in nature. In general, there are two Educational Alerts, two “Acknowledgement” Alerts that require a response from the subscriber, and two “Mitigation” Alerts that impose minor consequences to emphasize the seriousness of the problem.

Successive alerts will reinforce the seriousness of the copyright infringement and inform the recipient how to address the activity that is precipitating the alerts. For users who repeatedly fail to respond, the alerts will inform them of steps that will be taken to mitigate the on-going distribution of copyrighted content through their accounts.

For example, on the occasion of the fifth and/or sixth alert, the ISP may take one of several steps, called Mitigation Measures, calculated to stop future copyright infringement. Those steps may include temporary reductions of internet speeds, or redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter. It is expected that very few subscribers will persist (or allow others to persist) in the copyright infringement, after having received multiple alerts.

Upon receiving an alert, an internet subscriber may request an independent review, if he or she believes that the alert is not valid on the basis that the online activity in question was lawful or that the subscriber’s account was identified in error.

The CAS does not, under any circumstance, require the ISP to terminate an internet subscriber’s account. ISPs are not required to impose any Mitigation Measure that could disable a subscriber’s essential internet or other services, such as the emergency telephone service or email, nor does a content rights holder have access to a subscriber's identity, without a court order.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has endorsed the initiative, and praised the system as a model for addressing digital property rights without unduly inhibiting internet use and innovation. However, it notes that, while the CAS is an important effort, it does not diminish the need for the US Government to pursue additional policies and enforcement actions to address digital piracy, including large-scale, cross-border piracy.

"Piracy enables the unauthorized distribution of music, movies, television programs, software and other content to the detriment of creative artists, legitimate rights holders and the digital economy as a whole," said Richard Bennett, Senior Research Fellow with ITIF. "The CAS seeks to address the problem at its source by allowing ISPs to inform their customers directly when they are using broadband networks for unlawful purposes."

However, certain ways that files are shared on the internet, such as cyberlockers and e-mail attachments, are not included under the CAS, and Daniel Castro, senior analyst at ITIF, commented that: “As digital piracy continues to adapt to new file sharing services, it is important that policies designed to prevent piracy adapt as well."

TAGS: individuals | compliance | business | commerce | law | intellectual property | entertainers | copyright | enforcement | internet | e-commerce | United States | standards | services

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