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Five US ISPs To Initiate Anti-Piracy Scheme

by Glen Shapiro, LawAndTax-News.com, New York

30 November 2012


Along with the failure, until now, of the United States Congress to introduce legislation to reduce the incidence of online piracy, implementation of a voluntary initiative, called the Copyright Alert System (CAS) or the ‘Six Strikes’ response programme, which attracted five internet service providers (ISPs), has also been delayed.

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 piracy will receive a series of graduated warnings and educational messages before legal action can be taken. 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 together earlier this 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. 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 advising that a Mitigation Measure is pending – but before it is imposed – 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.

However, 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, although it admitted that the CAS is only a small step compared with the measures that were proposed by the Stop Online Piracy bill and the PROTECT-IP bill.

In particular, the ITIF noted that the program should reduce the massive compliance costs that burden ISPs under the ‘safe harbor’ provisions of existing law. It confirmed that the number of copyright violations is currently so large that they result in a massive stream of take-down notices that have become a major burden to ISPs, but, by automating the front end of the anti-piracy process, occasional violators may be convinced to stop ‘sharing’ content unlawfully, without the expense of a summons to appear in court.

ITIF Senior Research Fellow Richard Bennett said that "the Six Strikes system is a win for broadband users, ISPs and content creators alike. ISPs benefit from lower compliance costs than the notice-and-takedown systems impose, content creators get at least some protection for their rights, and users are ultimately afforded a richer stream of new content."

"There may be some glitches in ramping up the system and there will certainly be loud complaints from the anti-copyright crowd,” he continued, but it is “commendable that ISPs, content creators, and the public interest community have been able to come together to produce a consensus system that improves the status quo."

In fact, due to what it calls “unexpected factors largely stemming from Hurricane Sandy” which have seriously affected its final testing schedules, CCI now anticipates that the participating ISPs will begin sending alerts under the CAS in the early part of 2013, rather than by the end of this year, as had been previously anticipated.

TAGS: court | law | intellectual property | copyright | internet | legislation | United States | services

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