Six Steps to Slow Down Piracy - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Six Steps to Slow Down Piracy

Six Steps to Slow Down Piracy

Will instructional videos and Internet slowdowns stop you from downloading illegally?  After the demise of the SOPA/PIPA legislation, Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) and media groups are counting on it.  Put in to place this week, the new “Six Strikes” anti-piracy program, officially known as the Copyright Alert System (CAS) is a multi-step warning program designed to deter users from illegally downloading copyrighted material.  ISPs’ AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner and Comcast, along with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) joined together to enact the CAS.  The CAS is also unofficially backed by the Obama administration, but the extent of involvement is unclear.

This program is intended to educate consumers about copyrights, instead of punishing them.  The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) described the program as a “progressive series of alerts. . .designed to make consumers aware of activity that has occurred using their Internet accounts, educate them on how they can prevent such activity from happening again. . .and provide information about the growing number of ways to access digital content legally.”

Peer-to-peer file-sharing sites, such as BitTorrent, will be monitored by MarkMonitor, which will then provide the ISPs with the IP addresses of users pirating content.  ISPs may choose to implement the warnings in different ways, including pop-up alerts, instructional videos, Internet service slowdowns or suspensions.  Typically, multiple alerts that illegal content was downloaded will be sent, then followed by forced watching of instructional videos and ultimately slowed down Internet service for several days.  One example of implementation of the CAS is by Cablevision where after five or six unchallenged alerts, Cablevision will suspend Internet service for 24 hours.  To challenge a warning, there is an arbitration process that costs $35 and will be reimbursed if you win the challenge.

These alerts and mitigation measures do not result in legal action being taken.  However, they are designed to educate the violator on copyright infringement.  The personal identity of the infringer is not released as part of the CAS, but the copyright owner still may pursue legal charges and subpoena identification information.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has shown concern about the harm this program will have on open Wi-Fi connections.  This organization suggests the CAS hinders open Internet access.  In response, the CCI acknowledged that the program could affect some small businesses, but the program does not involve shutting down Internet access.  Additionally, some companies, such as Starbucks, have developed deals with their ISPs to ensure that the CAS does not interfere with their free Wi-Fi connections even if some users are illegally downloading content through their services.

It is unclear whether this CAS will successfully deter Internet users from downloading illegally, but it is the media companies’ and ISPs’ next shot after failing to get legislation passed to stop piracy.  So if you’re thinking of downloading Argo, the CCI is hoping its warnings will make you think again.  With that said, you probably should see Argo, just make it legal.

Katie Romick