ISPs Agree to Alert Piraters in New Copyright Enforcement Plan

Last week, a group of major internet service providers (ISPs)—including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable—all agreed to a new enforcement plan against music and movie piracy. The internet giants signed a voluntary “Memorandum of Understanding” with content owner representatives (including the RIAA and MPAA) to create standard practices of “copyright alerts” directed at users flagged for possible infringement.

Here’s a link to the plan.

The plan depends on copyright holders to monitor the Internet for suspicious behavior on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. When the copyright holder identifies infringing P2P activity, the holder will look up the IP address and notify the service provider.

Once the provider is notified of the potential infringement, it will begin a process of graduated steps to alert and–eventually–to punish the user who continues to pirate copyrighted material.

Notably, the plan does not involve the reporting of individual user’s identifying information or the dramatic penalties of years past. Rather, the plan emphasizes “educating” users about prohibited practices and “mitigating” the practices with penalties like reduced download speeds, intervention by the ISP, or disconnection from the service.

Here’s a summary of the The Copyright Alert Program:

  • Initial Educational Step— The ISP will alert the subscriber that the ISP have received a notice alleging P2P online infringement by the subscriber and informs them about prohibited infringement practices, ways to clean up their computer, and other lawful sources for music, film, and television content.
  • Acknowledgement Step— Allowing a grace period, the ISP issues another alert to the subscriber about additional notices it receives, this time requiring acknowledgement of receipt through a landing page and persistent pop-up notices. At this stage, the alert also warns that the ISP may provide records or identifying information if required by law.
  • Mitigation Measures Step—If notices about a subscriber persist, the ISP will alert the subscriber with a final warning that additional consequences may be applied by the ISP after a notice period of ten business days or fourteen calendar days. The possible mitigation measures include reduction in download speed, a step-down to dial-up service, lower bandwidth, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the warnings, restriction of access, or other options at the ISP’s discretion. After the expiration of the notice period, the ISP can “punish” the subscriber by applying these measures.
  • Post Mitigation Measures Step—If the ISP still receives notices about a subscriber after the final warning, the ISP can issue additional Step 4 warnings and punishments; the subscriber can seek review or dispute resolution to challenge the ISP’s decision.

All in all, the plan doesn’t offer much bite as enforcement for copyright holders. It does, however, take a useful step toward standardized and coordinated efforts among the biggest ISPs. While the plan may not create dramatic results in enforcement, it does mean more collaboration between ISPs and the music industry to educate users about piracy and cut down on online copyright infringement.

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