The film and music industries, other content-industry groups, and the nation’s major Internet service providers announced a new system Thursday for combating the piracy taking place on dedicated file-sharing networks.
The new Content Alert System would give Internet users a series of warnings that their accounts are being used to obtain music, movies, or television shows illegally. It would formalize an ad hoc process that content owners already use to notify ISPs that their subscribers are engaged in piracy.
“It’s a landmark agreement for companies that create content and companies that deliver it to work cooperatively to combat content theft [and]... an important step in the evolution of the Internet,” Recording Industry Association of America President Cary Sherman said during a conference call.
The effort only targets peer-to-peer piracy, which involves the sharing and downloading of illegal content.
Under the program, the content owner would alert the ISP. The Internet provider would then send an alert to a subscriber warning that the Internet account is being used for illegal content theft and include an educational message about the potential consequences.
If the subscriber failed to respond, the ISP would warn a few more times before triggering a “mitigation measure” such as a slowdown in the subscriber's Internet speed or redirecting them to a landing page when they go on the Internet until they respond.
Officials from Verizon and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association repeatedly said the program is not a “three-strikes” system, as been proposed in some foreign countries, that could lead to a cutoff in Internet service.
“It does not in any circumstances require ISPs to terminate a subscriber’s account,” said Verizon Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Thomas Dailey. “It’s to notify customers, not to penalize them.”
Sherman and officials with the Motion Picture Association of America and other content groups said the system would provide an additional tool in the fight to combat online piracy. They said it would not supplant other efforts, including the push for a bill they favor that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May to curb piracy on foreign websites.
The White House was involved in talks on the effort. U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel praised it. “We believe that this agreement is a positive step and consistent with our strategy of encouraging voluntary efforts to strengthen online intellectual property enforcement and with our broader Internet policy principles, emphasizing privacy, free speech, competition and due process," Espinel wrote in a White House blog post.
Still, some groups are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new program. “A voluntary, notification-centric approach can sidestep many of the serious concerns that would be raised by government mandates, the adoption of new snooping or filtering technologies, or a draconian ‘three-strikes’ approach centered on disconnecting Internet users,” the Center for Democracy and Technology and another public-interest group, Public Knowledge, said in a joint statement.
“But whether the agreement will meet its educational promise or instead will undermine the rights of Internet users will depend on how it is implemented.”