Just this week, a number of the major internet service providers in the United States, including AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner, began implementing the "Copyright Alert System."
What is the Copyright Alert System?
The system is an anti-piracy approach where your Internet Service Provider allows content partners, typically large media companies (i.e. Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA] and the Recording Industry Association of America [RIAA] ) to police the ISP's networks for copyright infringement. This means they monitor Internet traffic, and when potential copyright infringement is identified, the copyright holder will send your IP address to the ISP and request that the ISP notify you. The ISP will engage in a series of escalating warnings and actions with internet subscribers intended to discourage digital "piracy."
Does my Internet Service Provider have to participate in this system?
No. This is not a requirement based on any law. Instead, it's an agreement that the large Internet Service Providers have voluntarily chosen to participate in. The existing law, specifically the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, already protects intermediaries like Internet Service Providers from liability and says they do not have to police their networks for copyright infringment. Nonetheless, ISP's have decided to participate in this program.
If it's not required, why would ISP's monitor and police internet traffic?
There's a few reasons, but primarily because 1) many ISP's like Comcast and Time Warner are also large copyright holders and 2) despite the protections of the DMCA, ISP's want to make sure to avoid lawsuits from large media companies.
How does the "Copyright Alert System" work?
The policy may vary a bit from ISP to ISP, so you should keep an eye out on your email since some ISPs will be sending notice to internet subscribers about their policy. You can see the approach some of the specific ISP's are saying by visting this post on Mashable.
In general though, the first time that ISPs find that your account has been used to download allegedly illegal materials from peer-to-peer networks, you will like receive an notification by email probably telling you you're doing something illegal, and providing basic "education" on copyright law. The second offense typically will be either a) another email notification that requires you to acknowledge receipt, or b) an educational call from your ISP.
The system continues to escalate on each notice.
The third and fourth warnings will likely require you to watch a video and confirm you've viewed it before getting online. It may also be a simple redirect from certain web sites to an educational video.
For the fifth and final sixth warnings, ISPs range fairly significantly on their approaches. Approaches range from throttling your bandwidth, to temporary suspension of internet access, to redirection to a new landing page, to a personal instructional phone call with an ISP representative.
What doesn't the Copyright Alert System do?
As of now, it does not appear that the Copyright Alert System will be used to get ISPs to provide your personal information to large media companies. Large media companies should still need a subpoena or court order for that.
Are there any problem's with the Copyright Alert system?
We think so. The system highlights the uncomfortably close connection between ISP's and lage media companies, which are often one in the same. It shows the kind of control that large media companies can exert over the internet.
ISP's have no responsibility to do large media company's copyright policing for them, but they've chosen to get into that business anyway.
In addition, as with all anti-piracy systems, there are bound to be legal or fair uses of content that are misidentified as infringement.
We'll be keeping a close eye on how the system is implemented by the various ISP's, and will be looking to make sure the new system respects legal, fair uses of content.
What if I receive a notice from the Copyright Alert System?
If you have questions about the notice you received, you can contact New Media Rights for an explanation or to help you get your ISP to remove the strike.
More information: Here's just a few articles on the new Copyright Alert System