Pirates of the Web in Trouble
Friday, July 08, 2021 5:48 PM

After several years of negotiations with Hollywood and the music industry, a consortium of the biggest U.S. Internet service providers have come up with a strategy to educate users about copyright infringement. They will pass on warnings to subscribers detected using peer-to-peer file sharing illegally, with an escalating system of six warnings.

  • 1st and 2nd Alerts: An email sent by an ISP to a subscriber warning of potential violations.
  • 3rd and 4th Alerts: Stronger messages that require subscribers to acknowledge they received notice.
  • 5th and 6th Alerts: Stronger threats, including a reduction of Internet connection speeds or service suspension until the subscriber contacts the ISP.
    Source: Center for Copyright Information

The new “Copyright Alert System” was created by a coalition of major film studios, record labels and Internet-service providers, who have agreed on certain guidelines to identify and notify Web users who violate copyrights. Among the ISPs that have pledged to implement the new policy are Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

Studios and labels will be responsible for detecting infringements, which they are expected to do by monitoring file-sharing networks and ISPs will be responsible for alerting their customers to the alleged infringements on their accounts and helping them respond to the problem.

Customers who receive repeated alerts may have their Internet speeds throttled with, or have their Web access completely restricted until they offer to discuss the matter with their ISP or review educational information about copyright, according to a fact sheet about the program.

According to a couple of consumer groups, the effort could serve as a potential to be an important educational vehicle to help reduce online copyright infringement. However, the groups are particularly disappointed that the agreement lists Internet account suspension among the possible remedies, which they said would be wrong for any (ISP) to cut off subscribers, even temporarily, based on allegations that have not been tested in court.

Content piracy costs the U.S. economy more than 373,000 jobs, $16 billion in lost earnings and $3 billion in tax revenue each year. The Obama administration and U.S. lawmakers have doubled their efforts to fight online piracy this year. Earlier this year, President Obama released 20 recommendations that would toughen sentences for stealing intellectual property and give authorities stronger laws to go after websites that sell pirated content.

Although a number of major ISPs have already been passing along warning notices to customers, the new initiative is more comprehensive (hundreds of independent labels and studios are participating), methodical and far-reaching. It won't convert every illegal downloader into a paying customer, but it's a start.

The Internet providers, like Comcast, are hoping to make enormous profits as they feed music and video of the non-pirated variety to their customers. The ISPs want to cooperate with Hollywood and other record labels, which will make money nonetheless, because the carriers recognize that their own potential for growth depends to an extent on bundled content strategies. They don’t want to be just companies providing Internet access, but premium content distributors as well.