Comcast will persistently nag subscribers suspected of illegally trading copyrighted material but -- unlike some other ISPs -- the cable operator says it will not throttle back connection speeds or block access to the Internet.
This week, after more than a year and a half in the works, Comcast and four other major U.S. broadband providers -- Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon Communications and Cablevision Systems -- have begun alerting subscribers suspected of illegally sharing or downloading copyrighted content over peer-to-peer networks, under the media industry-led “six strikes” program.
On Wednesday, Comcast provided details of how it will carry out the Center for Copyright Information’s Copyright Alert System.
In the first two instances, Comcast's Xfinity Internet users suspected of copyright infringement will receive “information-focused alerts” via both in-browser alerts and emails, Susan Jin Davis, Comcast Cable’s vice president of strategic services for communications and data services, wrote in a blog post. Alerts 3 and 4 will be more strongly worded “warning-focused alerts.”
With the fifth suspected offense, Comcast will step up to “mitigation-focused alerts,” which will include a persistent in-browser alert that requires a customer to call the Comcast Security Assurance (CSA) team. Comcast will remove the persistent alert only after a user reviews information about copyright infringement; if subscribers who believe they have received alerts file for an independent review of the charges within 14 days of the fifth alert (which requires paying a $35 fee), Comcast will remove the in-browser alerts until the appeal is completed.
The “vast majority of our customers will never receive any Copyright Alerts,” Jin Davis noted. However, “we believe that informed awareness about copyrights will help our customers make knowledgeable choices about using copyrighted content online.”
Comcast’s mitigation measures under the CCI program are less draconian than those being employed by other ISPs participating in the CCI. Verizon, for example, will slow down suspected pirates’ Internet connection to a maximum speed of 256 Kilobits per second for two days after a fifth notice (and for three days after the sixth) until they take remedial action.
Time Warner Cable, meanwhile, will suspend accused infringers’ account, starting 14 days after a user acknowledges receiving the fifth-strike notice, until the user calls TWC and speaks with a customer service representative to walk through legal sources of media.
Cablevision, for its part, will suspend an Optimum Internet user's account for 24 hours if they do not file an appeal within 14 days of receiving a fifth or sixth CAS Alert, according to the MSO's support website. AT&T's approach is similar to Comcast's, with the telco requiring customers who receive a fifth CAS notice to "review materials on an online portal that will educate them on the distribution of copyrighted content online," the company said in a statement.
Under the CCI’s policies, no subscribers will have their service automatically terminated under the Copyright Alert System, officials have emphasized. The program's appeal process is being adminstered by the American Arbitration Association.
Skeptics question how effective the Copyright Alert System will be in curbing piracy, partly because it’s limited to monitoring peer-to-peer applications. But backers of the Center for Copyright Information believe the program can persuade people to change their ways, by pointing them to legitimate online content sources such as iTunes, Netflix or Spotify. That includes parents who are unaware their kids are pilfering gigabytes of copyrighted material, according to officials.
The alerts “are meant to educate rather than punish, and direct [alleged infringers] to legal alternatives,” CCI executive director Jill Lesser wrote in a blog post Monday.
The CCI was established in July 2011 by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, music labels, and TV and movie producers in collaboration with the five Internet service providers.