The Copyright Police Are Coming!
The online theft of copyrighted movies and music is an ever-growing problem, according to movie and music industry moguls. Their latest effort to curb piracy recruits some of the largest ISPs in the world. Read on to learn how the copyright police are watching, and what might happen if you're caught illegally downloading from file-sharing sites...
What is The Copyright Alert System?
The Copyright Alert System is a framework for detecting illegal file sharing, educating the offenders, and encouraging them to stop stealing copyrighted materials. The system results from negotiations between internet service providers (ISPs) and content industry associations that have dragged on since 2008. Here is how it will work, essentially:
Contractors for the RIAA and MPAA will patrol peer-to-peer networks, looking for illegally shared copies of content copyrighted by the trade associations' members. When an illegal file is detected, the IP addresses of the sharing pirates will be taken down, along with other information about the incident. That information will be shared with the ISPs which control the offenders' IP addresses.
The ISPs will use the information received from the copyright police to determine which customers were using the IP addresses at the time of the incident. Those customers will then receive warnings ("alerts") from their ISPs to the effect that illegal activity has been associated with their accounts and it had better stop immediately. The alerts will include resources to educate the customers on copyright, infringement, and how to avoid further trouble.
If another complaint involving a given IP address is received, a second alert goes out. A third complaint escalates matters; the customer must acknowledge receipt of the third and fourth alerts. Fifth and sixth complaints may incur "mitigation measures," which are not well defined under the new framework.
Mitigation could include throttling of a customer's Internet speed or re-direction of all Web requests to a page about copyright infringement until the customer contacts the ISP to discuss the matter. The one thing mitigation will not include, swear the ISPs involved, is termination of Internet service.
The alert system seems to be a genuine attempt to educate customers who mistakenly think it's OK to "share" music and movies, or who are unaware that unsecured WiFi networks can be used to steal copyrighted material, or who think their children can be trusted. It certainly isn't designed to crack down on hardcore file-sharing pirates.
I Was Framed, Honest!
As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, there are situations where illegal downloading can occur without the account owner being aware. So the system allows a customer to request "independent" review and arbitration before any mitigation measures are put into effect. However, it will cost you $35 for such a review. A customer might pay for a review to argue that a mistake was made and no illegal activity occurred, or that someone else did the illegal deed without the customer's knowledge or consent.
What happens if you ignore all of your ISP's alerts? That is not specified, but presumably you will soon hear from the attorneys of the RIAA and/or MPAA. Trust me, you do not want to get a letter or phone call from these guys. See my earlier article File Sharing Student Fined $675K for details on that.
Despite the kid gloves approach of the Copyright Alert System, some online libertarians are concerned about its unprecedented formal cooperation between copyright holders and ISPs. It may be only "alerts" now, the say, but that opens the door to actual shutdowns of customers' Internet accounts in the future. They may be right.
It is in an ISP's best interest to have a "termination policy" in place for dealing with "repeat infringers," according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA makes such a policy a requirement for taking advantage of the Act's "safe harbor" immunity from liability for customers' infringement. In other words, if an ISP does not want to be sued for enabling a customer's infringement, it had better be prepared to terminate the accounts of proven repeat infringers.
I know there are plenty of people who argue that online sharing of copyrighted music and movies is no big deal, that it's okay because the music industry is evil, or that you can't steal something that exists in digital form. Personally, I disagree. I will happily pay for good online content that someone has worked hard to create.
Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 8 Sep 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- The Copyright Police Are Coming! (Posted: 8 Sep 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved