Friday 11 January 2013

Verizon, six-strikes and piracy

Verizon have announced how they will implement the US Copyright Alert System (the six-strike system) at the same time as research is published telling us that censoring pirate sites does not work.

The much delayed Copyright Alert System system agreed between AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon and the music and film industries, is intended discourage consumers from illegally downloading copyright-protected material. AT&T and Time Warner Cable have already announced how they will implement the system; now TorrentFreak reports that Verizon's alert scheme has been made public.
It will work as follows: first, when the IP-address of a Verizon customer is caught sharing a copyright protected work, the account holder will receive two notification alerts informing them of the alleged copyright infringement and explaining how file-sharing software can be removed from their computer.

If the user takes no action they will receive further alerts redirecting their browser to a web page where they can review and acknowledge receiving the alerts. There they will be able to view "a short video about copyright law and the consequences of copyright infringement." The user will then be required to click on an "acknowledgement button" (to confirm having received the alert) before being able to freely browse the internet.
If, at this stage, the infringements continue, the customer can ask for a review by the American Arbitration Association. Alternatively Verizon will impose a temporary speed reduction on that customer's internet connection.

If the infringements continue after the sixth alert, Verizon will take no further action and the customer's internet speed will not be affected. However at this stage the MPAA and RIAA can take legal action against the customer, who will be able to identify the customer by getting a court order forcing Verizon to disclose the name and contact details linked to the relevant IP-address.
The public view seems to be that the six-strike system will have little effect in practice, other than perhaps to increase the use of VPNs. It is worth noting however that, according to TorrentFreak, alerts will be sent to business customers as well as private users, meaning that cafes and other small businesses could be subject to alerts caused by actions taken by their customers on their network.

Concurrently, researchers from Boston's Northeastern University have published a paper saying that censoring pirate sites by blocking or seizing their domains is ineffective. The study says:
"Our data shows that current anti-piracy efforts are visible, but their overall impact appears to be rather limited. Furthermore, our analysis of the file sharing ecosystem suggests that future antipiracy measures that are currently under discussion may not be as successful as their proponents might expect."

The paper discusses the various attempts which have been made to stop uploaders from file-sharing. Their research shows that none of the current methods work very well, and they make the very sensible suggestion of  introducing a "complementary strategy of reducing the demand for pirated content, e.g., by providing legitimate offers that are more attractive to consumers than pirating content."
The paper concludes that changing attitudes of one-click hosters (such as Megashare and Rapidupload) is what will make a real difference (though this blogger can't really see the incentive for one-click hosters to change unless there is some incentive in it for them). Perhaps the combined forces of clamping down on hosters, educating users (via the six-strike system or otherwise) and providing easy and inexpensive access to legitimate content might make a dent in what remains a very strong pirate industry?

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