February 25, 2013 at 12:04 pm

If You’re Still Mass-Pirating Music, Expect a Letter From Your ISP

In the olden days (i.e. until today), record labels and others seeking to discourage people from distributing copyrighted material online without permission in the United States had one basic strategy:

1. Find the IP address of the person sharing music (they only go after uploaders, not downloaders).

2. Subpoena that person’s ISP in order to get the name and contact information of the suspected infringer.

3. Settle with the alleged infringer for a few thousand dollars — or, if they refuse to settle, nail them with huge fines.

Those days are over.

On Monday, the “Center for Copyright Information” website launched with information about a new policy for dealing with people who share music, movies, and other copyrighted stuff on the internet, usually with BitTorrent. United States ISPs are now working with the CCI (backed by the RIAA and other organizations) to identify file sharers without dealing with the courts or a subpoena.

If they find that you’re sharing copyrighted material, they’ll tell your ISP to send you a “Copyright Alert” — a warning that you must cut it out. If you keep sharing stuff anyway — or if anyone on your home network keeps sharing — you’ll get six strikes (technically five), and then you’ll be “out.” Measures will be taken, reportedly varying by ISP. Some will slow your internet speed, others will stop you from accessing popular websites completely, and others will interrupt your web browsing from time to time. The CCI explains the penalties for those who strike out, so to speak, as follows:

  • “A temporary reduction in your Internet speed;
  • “A temporary downgrade to your Internet service tier or
  • “Redirection to a landing page for a set period of time, until you contact your ISP, or until you complete an online copyright education program.”

It’s important to note that none of the ISPs are reportedly willing to kick you off of the internet forever (what, and lose a paying customer?). However, this appears to be the first time ISPs and the entertainment industry have announced so formalized an agreement for dealing with serial offenders without going through the courts.

One might expect this system to be targeted at the most hardcore file sharers — the ones offering the entire catalogs of hundreds or thousands of artists, for free, on a fast connection. However, the CCI understands that those people will always be able to use a proxy to fake their IP addresses.

Instead, the goal is said to be to dissuade casual file sharers from dabbling in BitTorrent, give parents a reason to stop their kids from using the family’s connection to traffic in free music without permission, and convince everyone to secure their wireless networks, so that the ISP knows that the person in control of that network can be held responsible for any infringement. The CCI links to a full list of every “legit” music service, which they should ostensibly be using instead.

CCI head Jill Lesser posted the following statement today:

“I am pleased to announce that today marks the beginning of the implementation phase of the Copyright Alert System (CAS). Implementation marks the culmination of many months of work on this groundbreaking and collaborative effort to curb online piracy and promote the lawful use of digital music, movies and TV shows. The CAS marks a new way to reach consumers who may be engaging in peer-to-peer (P2P) piracy and I am excited that our new website features information on the CAS, the Independent Review Process,copyrightP2P networks, and numerous consumer oriented legal sources for music, movies and television shows.

“We hope this cooperative, multi-stakeholder approach will serve as a model for addressing important issues facing all who participate in the digital entertainment ecosystem.  From content creators and owners to distributors to consumers, we all benefit from a better understanding of the choices available and the rights and responsibilities that come with using digital content, thereby helping to drive investment in content creation and innovative services that offer exciting ways to enjoy music, video and all digital content.

“Over the course of the next several days our participating ISPs will begin rolling out the system. Practically speaking, this means our content partners will begin sending notices of alleged P2P copyright infringement to ISPs, and the ISPs will begin forwarding those notices in the form of Copyright Alerts to consumers. Most consumers will never receive Alerts under the program. Consumers whose accounts have been used to share copyrighted content over P2P networks illegally (or without authority) will receive Alerts that are meant to educate rather than punish, and direct them to legal alternatives. And for those consumers who believe they received Alerts in error, an easy to use process will be in place for them to seek independent review of the Alerts they received.

“As with any innovative system, the process of building the CAS has taken time. We appreciate the collaborative engagement from the many organizations, companies and professionals involved in CCI who helped advise us along the way. CCI and its partners have worked hard to meet our goal of implementing a system that educates consumers about copyright and P2P networks, encourages the use of legal alternatives, and safeguards customer privacy.

February 25, 2013″

And the CCI’s video explaining how the system works:

YouTube Preview Image

This marks a big departure for how copyright works in the United States. Other countries have already experimented with “three strikes” policies. In New Zealand, a three strikes policy apparently halved internet piracy, although in the very first case brought to court, the accused person wasn’t the one doing the file sharing. If you’re falsely