Tuesday 26 February 2013

Six Strikes launches in the US

The new “Copyright Alert System” is finally launching across all of the major Internet providers in the United States of America including  AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon. The organisation coordinating the Hollywood-backed scheme, the Center for Copyright Information, confirmed in a blog post yesterday (25th February)  that “the implementation phase of the Copyright Alert System” had begun ushering in a system which will monitor and collect the IP addresses of computers apparently downloading and sharing copyrighted content illegally, ultimately exposing infringing users to the risk of "bandwidth throttling". The CCI says that the move 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”.

Suspected infringers will be flagged up to the Internet providers as part of a “six strikes” program. If a user is accused of downloading the latest box office smash or hot music track,  the user will initially receive “educational notices” designed to warn the user that they have misbehaved. Ignore the notice will results in the next stage of the ‘six strikes’ programme, with an escalation in actions as the process continues. After receiving two “educational” Copyright Alerts, alleged violators will be sent two additional alerts requiring a response; the most severe "mitigation" steps, which would come after the fifth and sixth detected infringement, could reduce or “throttle”  the customer's bandwidth or redirect that person's browsing automatically to an anti-piracy information page. Notably, the ISPs haven't been willing to go as far as the major studios and labels have sought, which would be to actually cut off a users Internet access after multiple alleged offences.

Jill Lesser, executive director of the CCI, said the five ISPs would send notices only about illegal file-sharing, even though it is clear that much of the piracy online has shifted to unauthorized streaming sites and locker services. "It is certainly not the most innovative form of piracy," Lesser said of file-sharing, "but it’s still among the biggest" adding that the content industries had wanted to avoid biting off more than they could chew but “Once they've shown they can make the system work we can find ways to expand it."

Users who receive a warning notice which they believe is false or inaccurate they can challenge it with an independent arbitrator — but will have to fork out a $35 “filing fee”. Opponents of the scheme say that they lay the groundwork for more invasive monitoring by ISPs (with one calling the new scheme a ‘spy programme’), and that they threaten to expose users who should be protected by “fair use” provisions in US copyright law to sanctions by their ISP.

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