In a move that could have major ramifications for copyright holders including movie and music producers as well as potentially manga and comic publishers, a number of the nation’s leading Internet service providers including AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable have agreed to in effect become copyright cops and send their customers “Copyright Alerts” when their internet service accounts are possibly being misused for online content theft.
The agreement between the ISPs and major copyright holders including Hollywood studios and record companies, which came after three years of negotiations, also sets up a Center for Copyright Information to help implement the system and educate consumers about copyright violations.
The five ISPs have agreed on a common framework for issuing the “Copyright Alerts” and “best practices” to do so. According to Variety, the system is “based on the notion that the vast majority of consumers either don’t know they are viewing pirated content, or will halt once they are educated about it.” It will be up to the copyright holders to provide the ISPs with information about pirated content linked to IP addresses. The ISPs will not provide subscribers’ names to copyright holders unless forced to by a court order.
The agreement specifies a series of up to six alerts. If the initial alerts are ignored, an additional message will be sent through that will ask the subscriber to acknowledge the receipt of the message by clicking through a pop-up page. If the thefts continue the ISP can take various “mitigation measures” including reducing the subscriber’s internet speed until the subscriber contacts the ISP. The ISPs are not required to take any action that would disable Internet phone service, email, or any health or security service.
Before any mitigation measure is put in place, the consumer can request an independent review, which will cost the consumer $35. Of course consumers can also take their ISP to court if they feel they have been wrongly accused and are willing to take on the legal staff of a giant corporation.
The voluntary agreement from the five leading ISPs represents a different approach from that taken by some other countries, which have adopted tough “three strikes laws,” which are universal in scope and backed by the power of a specific statute.