Comcast Eyes Complement to ‘Six Strikes’ Copyright Alert System

Confirms It's Exploring a Real-Time Version That Points Suspected Pirates to Legal Sources of Content

Comcast confirmed a report that it has begun to work on a new, faster copyright alert system that would direct suspected pirates to legal sources of content and complement the MSO's current “six strikes” copyright alert policy.

Variety reported of the new initiative on Monday, noting that the MSO has started preliminary talks with film and TV studios about a new system that would deliver pop-up messages that point broadband customers to legitimate options if it was suspected that they were downloading content illegally.

A Comcast spokesman said engineers and the MSO and NBCU are looking into it, but acknowledged that they are “very early” into the process and no trials are even underway yet. “Copyright is important to Comcast not only as an ISP, but as a content owner,” he said.

The Comcast official also acknowledged that the MSO wants to get other programmers and ISPs on board. “We want to have widespread acceptance of the practice,” he explained.

Comcast also characterized the system under consideration as a potential “complement” to voluntary, media industry-backed “six strikes” policies that have been put into place by other major U.S. broadband ISPs, including Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon Communications and Cablevision Systems.

Comcast announced in February how it would carry out its variant of the Center for Copyright Information’s Copyright Alert System (CAS). In the first two instances, Comcast broadband users suspected of obtaining or trading copyrighted material receive “information-focused alerts” via in-browser pop-ups  and via email. The next two alerts are more strongly worded warnings, followed by “mitigation-focused alerts” that include a persistent in-browser alert that requires the customer to call the Comcast Security Assurance team before it will be taken down. Unlike some other ISPs participating in the CAS program, Comcast’s policy does not call for the slowing down of Internet connection speeds during the mitigation phase.

The complementary system Comcast is considering would use similar technology and methodology of the current system, but would aim to deliver copyright alerts much more rapidly, the Comcast official said. Under the existing CAS, suspected copyright infringers typically don’t receive alerts until days or weeks after the system sifts through batches of data.

According to Variety, the system being explored would “provide offending users with transactional opportunities to access legal versions of copyright-infringing videos as they’re being downloaded.”

Comcast stressed that doesn’t intend to drop the existing policy in lieu of a new one. The aim is to use them both.  

Comcast is “fully committed” to its current six strikes policy, but “there won’t be a single solution out there,” the spokesman said.