The nation’s major internet service providers on Monday said they are beginning to roll out an initiative to disrupt internet access for online copyright scofflaws.
The so-called “Copyright Alert System” is backed by the President Barack Obama administration and was pushed heavily by record labels and Hollywood studios.
The plan, more than four years in the making, includes participation by AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon. Others could soon join.
After four offenses, the historic plan calls for these residential internet providers to initiate so-called “mitigation measures” (.pdf) that might include reducing internet speeds and redirecting a subscriber’s service to an “educational” landing page about infringement.
The plan does not prevent content owners from suing internet subscribers. The Copyright Act allows damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.
The Center for Copyright Information, the new group running the program, maintains it is not designed to terminate online accounts for repeat offenders. However, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act demands that internet service providers kick off repeat copyright scofflaws.
The program monitors peer-to-peer file-sharing services via internet snoop MarkMonitor of San Francisco. The surveillance was to have been deployed sooner. But the various delays included Hurricane Sandy and ISP reluctance to join.
Peer-to-peer monitoring is easily detectable. That’s because IP addresses of internet customers usually reveal themselves during the transfer of files. Cyberlockers, e-mail attachments, shared Dropbox folders and other ways to infringe are not included in the crackdown.
To be sure, the deal is not as draconian as it could have been.
The agreement, heavily lobbied for by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, does not require internet service providers to filter copyrighted material transiting their networks. U.S. internet service providers and the content industry have openly embraced that kind filtering. The Federal Communications Commission, in crafting its net neutrality rules, has all but invited the ISPs to practice it.
On a scofflaw’s first offense, internet subscribers will receive an e-mail “alert” from their ISP saying the account may have been misused for online content theft. On the second offense, the alert might contain an “educational message” about the legalities of online file sharing.
On the third and fourth infractions, the subscriber will likely receive a pop-up notice “asking the subscriber to acknowledge receipt of the alert.”