Six Strike Anti-Piracy Program Will Soon Be Released

Friday, September 14, 2012, by Reine Duffy

This week it was reported that the Copyright Alert System, or “six strikes” anti-piracy program, is anticipated to arrive within the next few months. The program was first announced in July 2011 and its release was delayed at least twice since its original planned launch date of December 2011, but Jill Lesser, head of the Center for Copyright Information, now assures that it will come out before the end of the year.

The program was designed by the Center for Copyright Information, the coalition of movie, music and bandwidth providers, and Internet service providers as a way to issue alerts to identify and warn Internet customers who are detected downloading music or movies without authorization. Under the program, content holders such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America will notify Internet service providers whenever they find that their content is being illegally downloaded. The Internet service provider will then send an alert to the Internet subscriber connected to the infringing IP address. According to Lesser, “the alert will notify the subscriber that his/her account may have been misused for potentially illegal file sharing, explain why the action is illegal and a violation of the ISP’s policies and provide advice on how to avoid receiving further alerts as well as how to locate film, television and music content legally.”

If the alleged activity continues, the subscriber will be sent increasing warnings that will eventually require the subscriber to acknowledge receipt of the first alerts. By the fifth alert, the Internet service provider can notify the subscriber and begin implementing “Mitigation Measures,” such as temporarily reducing Internet speed or redirecting the subscriber to a page discussing the matter and forcing the subscriber to respond. After six warnings, the Internet service provider can take punitive action.

The program has raised speculation about its potential for success and has been compared to Frances’s strict three-strike anti-piracy law, which has been only mildly successful and requires Internet service providers to cut off infringers’ Internet service for a year following repeated violations. However, the Copyright Alert System is meant to be more educational than punitive, and does not aim to penalize Internet subscribers for what many might call minor discrepancies or subject unknowing individuals to lawsuits. As Lesser explained, the goal is to educate users about the dangers of downloading unauthorized content and encourage legal internet usage.

In light of the program’s cost, its initial delays in implementation, and the fact that not all Internet service providers in the country will be participating (about 75% of internet users will be covered), it’s up to speculation whether the program will be successful. Criticism has already surfaced that the program will do little to deter the more experienced and professional copyright infringers who will probably find ways to get around it. Further, an unsuspecting Internet subscriber whose Wi-Fi was illegally targeted may have to pay a fee to challenge the accusations and will only have a limited time to do so. Nonetheless, if the program’s goal is to educate, that’s probably what it will do, as the average Internet user will be unable to ignore the effect of their illegal activity or pretend that it has gone by unnoticed. Will the program also have the effect of decreasing the amount of unauthorized internet usage? That remains to be seen.