Content Owners and ISPs Try to Kill Copyright Infringement with Kindness, But Will it Work?

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As part of an educational effort to raise awareness about the consequences of copyright infringement, US ISPs sent out more than 1.3 million copyright alerts to 772,820 account holders last year.

Launched in February 2013, the Copyright Alert System (CAS) is a tiered notice and response system aimed at reducing copyright infringement over P2P networks through education. Organizations behind the project include five large ISPs (AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable), the Center for Copyright Information, and the Consumer Advisory Board.

The system includes three levels of alerts – educational, acknowledgement, and mitigation. The system is known as the 6-strike system since it includes two warnings per level of alert.

According to a report outlining the first phase of the initiative released on Wednesday, the majority of the alerts don’t make it to the final mitigation stage, which punishes infringing ISP account holders with temporary measures including slower bandwidth speeds, a downgraded Internet service package, or a redirection to a page for a set period of time until the account holder reviews educational materials. The report said that only three percent of alerts over the last 10 months reached this stage of mitigation.

As a report by GigaOM points out, the system is certainly a more softened approach to the tactics used by content owners in the past. In reading the report, the language focuses more on educational efforts than legal ones, but it could be unsettling to some since it works outside of the legal system, instead relying heavily on voluntary private sector collaborations.

It could also set an uncomfortable precedent for service providers as they could be expected to be more involved in policing user content. Even though the system alerts the ISPs, the ISPs are still acting as middlemen by passing the alerts onto their users. While the system sent out over 2 million alerts in 2013, 1.3 million alerts were passed on to end-users.

The ISPs involved in the initiative use MarkMonitor to scan public P2P networks to identify copyright infringing content. ISPs delivered alerts to account holders without sharing personally identifiable information with content owners to protect their privacy, according to the report.

The report found that the majority of peer-to-peer copyright infringement is “fueled by a small group of younger, predominantly male digital consumers.” With the rise in popularity of legitimate sources for TV, movies and music, such as Hulu, Netflix or Spotify, more than 50 percent of users surveyed said that they had used authorized sources for movies and TV shows in the last six months. For music, that number jumped to 70 percent.

The organizations behind the program believe that the alerts will prevent copyright infringement. In the report, 57 percent of users said they would stop engaging in copyright infringement immediately upon receiving an alert, with only 9 percent reporting they would ignore a notification.

Consumers who believe they have been wrongly targeted are able to submit an appeal, but there is a $35 fee to do so.

The program is expected to “at least double” the number of notices sent and processed in 2014.

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