The movie and music industry have come to an accord about how ISPs will work with them to notify suspected pirates of downloading and using pirated content.
Several ISPs signed a
voluntary agreement with the music and movie businesses to crack down on online
Most major ISPs in the
United States, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner
Cable, have signed on to help shut down copyright violators, but they won't do
the filtering or monitoring themselves, according to representatives of the
alliance, which includes music record labels, movie studios and ISPs. Nor will
the ISPs be required to disclose subscriber information without a court order.
Under the new system, the
copyright holders would continue to search for instances of infringement on
their own and track down suspect IP addresses. They would then send the ISP
holding that IP address a message instructing the user to stop the pirated
activity. The ISP is committed to forward those notices to the subscriber
associated with the IP address, possibly as an email.
"We anticipate that
very few subscribers, after having received multiple alerts, will persist (or
allow others to persist) in the content theft," the group said on its CFCI
(Center For Copyright Information) Website.
companies are betting that the new process could reduce illegal file sharing by
as much as 70 percent. The industry claimed in a 2007 study that online piracy
costs the U.S. economy $58 billion in losses every year.
"We believe it will
have a significant impact on reducing online piracy," wrote Victoria
Espinel, U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, in support of the
CFCI on The White House
The outlined system is not
all that different from what many Internet providers already do. The newly created
Copyright Alert System
just standardized the
approach that ISPs will use when notifying users they are suspected of
illegally downloading music, TV shows or movies.
The "copyright alerts"
are a series of
messages warning users that allegedly illegal activity has been detected and
that penalties could be imposed if they do not stop. The alerts will be sent
repeatedly as part of a "six strikes" alert system.
ISPs will possibly take
action after the fifth or sixth message, such as "temporary reductions of
Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the
ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational
information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary
to help resolve the matter," according to the CFCI guidelines.
The ISPs are not required to
disconnect a user, and most providers have said they will not cut off a user's
phone or email service. The new system is intended to be different from
Europe's "three strikes" laws.
"This creates no new
laws or formal legal procedures, and it does not require account suspension or
termination," the coalition said.
However, the coalition
asserted that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires ISPs to have a
"termination policy" for repeat offenders or run the risk of being
sued for harboring criminals. This implies that the industry will claim ISPs
that don't terminate subscribers after the fifth or sixth alert will lose their
DMCA protection, wrote the Electronic Frontier
"We believe it would be
wrong for any ISP to cut off subscribers, even temporarily, based on
allegations that have not been tested in court," The Center for Democracy &
Technology, along with Public Knowledge, said in a joint statement.
Users can appeal the alert
messages, as they can request an independent review by paying a $35 filing fee.
While it's clear the courts will not be involved, the agreement is vague as to
who will handle the appeal. Subscribers can always still sue their ISP in
Phillips flagged other
potential issues in the appeals process, noting that users who want to apply
the fair-use defense must be willing to have their personal information sent to
the copyright holder. The appeals process also has very narrow grounds for
review, such as the account was incorrectly identified or that someone else had
done the activity without the user's permission.
Individual privacy is
protected throughout the whole process because the providers will "never
provide any personally identifiable information to copyright holders,"
such as names or addresses without a court order or subpoena, the group
The goal is to "educate
and stop the alleged content theft in question, not to punish," according
to the group. The alert system ensures users are informed multiple times that
downloading content online could have copyright consequences.
In many cases, it could
even be a way to let the parents know their children are getting pirated materials
off peer-to-peer networks, the group said. ISPs don't want to lose customers or
for their customers to have legal problems, so the system provides "every
opportunity" to stop engaging in illegal behavior, the alliance said.
The copyright holders in the
coalition include EMI, Sony Music, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox,
Universal Music, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Music and