Five major internet service providers (ISPs) have teamed up with major copyright holders in the entertainment industry to launch the Copyright Alert System (CAS), a private sector initiative to combat piracy and the illegal downloading of copyrighted materials. The idea of the CAS first surfaced a couple of years ago, and was originally set to go into effect last November, but didn’t officially get underway until this week.
Under the new system, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon and Time Warner Cable have agreed with organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America to notify users if they are engaging in alleged copyright infringement of movies, TV shows, songs and the like.
The ISPs say that the goal of the CAS is to educate users and make them aware of the times when they – knowingly or unknowingly – illegally download entertainment. Not surprisingly, the CAS will have a particular focus on peer-to-peer networks. The system is a six-step process, and has thus been unofficially dubbed the “Six Strikes” plan by many.
So how does it work? Well, most of the ISPs have posted explanations of how they’ll be going about enforcing the CAS within the past few days. Comcast, for instance, says that the program isn’t quite as Orwellian as it may sound on the surface – there won’t be any Big Brother-style mining of personal information or complete shutting down (or permanent throttling) of a user’s internet service. And of course, those who don’t download content illegally won’t have to deal with any of this in the first place.
But for those who still choose to sway the way of the pirate, the CAS will see content creators monitor peer-to-peer networks (like, say, BitTorrent) in an effort to see if anyone is illegally taking their material. If the content creators find someone pirating their stuff, they’ll then notify ISPs with the IP addresses of those suspected to be engaging in the activity. With the IP addresses in tow, the ISPs then figure out which of their customers have been reported, and then issue out a warning accordingly.
Each ISP is wording things a little bit differently, but the core process is essentially the same. Comcast does an alright job of explaining its process, so let’s use them as an example. It says that the first two offenses will result in “information-focused” in-browser notices that will detail the alleged infringement. The first alert can be dismissed without any problem, but the second one will require users to sign into their Comcast user IDs and acknowledge the notice before being able to dismiss it.
The third and fourth offenses will result in what Comcast terms “warning-focused alerts.” The language in these notices will be “more pronounced and urgent,” and the “household’s primary account holder” will again have to log in and acknowledge that the notice has been received.
If users continue to pirate – or continue to be alleged of piracy – the fifth and sixth alerts are “mitigation-focused.” Users will first be given a 14-day appeal window to dispute or file an independent review against the ISPs’ claims, which will suspend the ISPs’ alerts until the review process is completed. Those that win their appeals will then see their entire alert history reset. The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) — the organization that represents the entertainment industry members and ISPs in charge of this whole plan — has previously said that filing an appeal will cost $35.
But for those who don’t appeal, a “persistent in-browser alert” will appear after that initial 14-day window, and will require users to call the company’s Comcast Security Assurance (CSA) team. The CSA team will again remind users not to pirate content (which is probably a little aimless at that point). Comcast says that “only [the CSA team] has the ability to remove the in-browser alert from the customer’s web browser,” but doesn’t exactly make it clear what conditions, if any, will have to be met before they do so. TechnologyGuide has reached out to Comcast for clarification and will report back if any new info is shared.
Generally speaking, each ISP has claimed that it will follow something similar to this template. No ISP has said that it will terminate a user’s internet service throughout the process so far, and only Verizon has said that it will throttle internet speeds for excessive offenders. Verizon says that the slowdown will downgrade speeds to near dial-up levels, and that the internet will be capped for two to three days before returning back to normal.
Basically, the ISPs and copyright holders want to give pirates migraines if they continue to illegally download content. This isn’t the first time the powers that be have taken action against online piracy, so whether or not these \”six strikes\” will actually solve the problem is still up in the air.
Update: When asked for comment on what \”sixth strike\” offenders would have to do for the Comcast Security Assurance team to remove their persistent in-app alert, Comcast reiterated its previous statements. It told TG that the CSA team \”can\” remove the in-browser alert, but did not specify exactly what users will have to do to get the CSA team to actually do so. Comcast also directed TG to an earlier CCI notice that says the maximum amount of alerts given under the CAS is six — but it only noted that the penalties will contain \”an increasing degree of seriousness.” This lack of specificity has been the case with most if not all of the participating ISPs so far, so the complete picture of what process a maximum offender will have to endure under the CAS is still unclear.