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Blog Home | September 17, 2014

Internet Service Providers Implement a Copyright Alert System to Curb Online Copyright Infringement

Several U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) have recently joined forces with the film, music and television industries to develop a “Copyright Alert System” to safeguard ISPs from online copyright infringement by their subscribers.  Notable ISPs involved are AT&T, Cablevision Systems Corporation, Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.  These ISPs will implement the Copyright Alert System between 2011 and 2012.  The system will be administered by a new “Center for Copyright Information” that consists of the ISPs, the Motion Picture Association of America, the independent Film and Television Alliance, the Recording Industry Association of America and the American Association of Independent Music.

The Copyright Alert System is intended to provide major ISPs’ systems with the ability to deal with claims of copyright infringement by the entertainment business.  Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §512), ISPs “shall not be liable for monetary relief . . . or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider’s transmitting, routing, or providing connections [or] for material through a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider” if they enforce measures to prevent repeat copyright infringement.

The Copyright Alert System is a six-stage notification system that will electronically alert internet users when their account is used for wrongful downloading.  The system will have escalating remedies in place in the event infringing activity continues.  The six stages are as follows:

Stage 1: After an ISP receives a notice from a copyright owner, the ISP sends an online alert to its subscriber containing educational materials about copyright infringement.

Stage 2: The subscriber receives a second online alert similar to the first online alert, and the ISP may escalate the subscriber straight to the third online alert.

Stage 3: The subscriber receives a third online alert.  However, the alert requires the subscriber to acknowledge that he or she has received the alerts concerning copyright infringement.  Additionally, the third online alert warns the subscriber that content theft can lead to consequences under the law and the ISPs’ policies.

Stage 4: The subscriber receives a fourth online alert identical to the third online alert.

Stage 5: The subscriber receives a fifth online alert.  At this stage, however, the ISP may take “mitigation measures” that are “reasonably calculated to stop future content theft,” including “temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter.”

Stage 6: The subscriber receives a sixth online alert, and the ISP will execute one of the above “mitigation measures.”

A subscriber who finds himself or herself at the latter stages of the Copyright Alert System must go before an independent reviewer to stop or contest the mitigation.  The review costs $35.  Additionally, the Copyright Alert System is designed to be flexible.  For example, the ISPs will not be required to terminate a subscriber’s membership in the event of copyright infringement.  Further, subscribers may request independent review of their alleged copyright infringement to avoid any “mitigation measure.”  Still further, the Copyright Alert System will not allow copyright owners to determine the identity of subscribers. Moreover, the ISPs will not be required to enforce any “mitigation measure” that will disable fundamental services, such as email or security services.

Critics fear that the Copyright Alert System will prove more harmful than beneficial to ISPs and copyright owners.  For example, some analysts believe that the Copyright Alert System will be detrimental to the ISPs that have joined forces with the entertainment industry because infringing subscribers will be frustrated with the online alerts.  Thus, subscribers may leave these ISPs for other service providers that have not implemented the Copyright Alert System.  Additionally, critics argue that the Copyright Alert System will be ineffective because subscribers will always find a way to steal creative content.  Only time will tell how effective the Copyright Alert System will be to ISPs and copyright owners.

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