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Big media and ISPs form alliance to crackdown on IP pirates
Major Internet Service Providers and organizations representing the makers of movies and distributors of music announced on July 7 that they had inked a pact creating a warning system that they hope will strangle the audience for pirated entertainment.
The agreement will establish "a state-of-the-art system similar to credit card fraud alerts — that will educate and notify Internet subscribers when their Internet service accounts possibly are being misused for online content theft," the new organization that will be overseeing the system, the Center for Copyright Information, said in a statement.
"This voluntary landmark collaboration will educate subscribers about content theft on their Internet accounts, benefiting consumers and copyright holders alike," it added.
"Today, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) forward to subscribers notifications that they receive from content owners about alleged content theft – generally by email," the center explained. "Until now, however, there has been no common framework of 'best practices' to effectively alert subscribers, protect copyrighted content and promote access to legal online content."
It noted that the system is aimed at addressing a common problem of the owner of an Internet account not knowing that it is being used for downloading copyright protected material. "Often, subscribers — particularly parents or caregivers — are not aware that their Internet accounts are being used for online content theft," it elaborated. "Other subscribers may be unaware that downloading copyrighted content from illicit sources is illegal and violates their ISP’s Terms of Service or other published policies."
"Data suggest that, once informed about the alleged content theft and its possible consequences, most Internet subscribers will quickly take steps to ensure that the theft doesn’t happen again," it added.
Under the system, copyright holders can notify an ISP when an account holder is pirating protected material. The ISP will send a series of alerts to the infringer. If, after at least five alerts, an account holder continues their infringing behavior, the ISP can take "mitigating measures" against the holder.
Those measures might include 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, an FAQ on the system explained.
"The system will also provide subscribers the opportunity for an independent review to determine whether a consumer’s online activity in question is lawful or if their account was identified in error," the center said.
It added: "There are no new laws or regulations established as a part of this voluntary agreement. Termination of a subscriber’s account is not part of this agreement. ISPs will not provide their subscribers' names to rights’ holders under this agreement."
“Consumers have a right to know if their broadband account is being used for illegal online content theft, or if their own online activity infringes on copyright rules — inadvertently or otherwise — so that they can correct that activity,” stated James Assey, executive vice president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
Michael O’Leary, executive vice president for government relations at the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA), observed, "Many people don’t realize that content theft puts jobs — and future productions of films, TV shows, music, and other content — at risk."
"This agreement will help direct consumers to legal platforms rather than illicit sites, which often funnel profits to criminals rather than the artists and technicians whose hard work makes movies, television, and music possible,” he added.
The companies and associations collaborating on the framework include Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Music companies participating include Universal Music Group Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Music North America.
And ISPs in the program include AT&T, Cablevision Systems Corp., Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Verizon.
Stronger measures to combat Internet piracy have been proposed in Congress. A bill filed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Orin Hatch (R-Utah) called the PROTECT IP Act would allow law enforcement authorities to take down websites offering infringing content. That proposed law, however, has been sidelined in the Senate since May 26.