Digital Pirates Put in Crosshairs


Warning: Your Internet connection is being
used to steal digital media.

That’s the uniform message that five of the largest U.S.
Internet service providers — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision
Systems, AT&T and Verizon — will be sending to suspected
Internet pirates starting later this year, under a formal
cross-industry initiative with movie, TV and music producers
announced last week.

Under the Copyright Alert System, Internet-service providers
will send up to six warnings to consumers if their broadband
accounts have been used to steal digital media. The
industry groups and companies behind the move positioned
the Copyright Alert System as akin to credit-card fraud alerting,
and spun the effort as a way to educate Internet subscribers
who may be unwittingly abetting online content theft.

“We are confident that, once informed that content theft is
taking place on their accounts, the great majority of broadband
subscribers will take steps to stop it,” National Cable & Telecommunications
Association executive vice president James
Assey said in a statement. The NCTA worked in an advisory capacity
with the ISPs to help complete the agreement.

As proposed, the Copyright Alert System is not as severe as
some consumer-advocacy groups had feared.


“A voluntary, notification-centric approach can sidestep many
of the serious concerns that would be raised by government
mandates, the adoption of new snooping or filtering technologies,
or a draconian ‘three strikes’ approach centered on
disconnecting Internet users,” the Center for Democracy &
Technology and Public Knowledge, a pair of advocacy groups,
said in a joint statement.

Companies and associations behind the piracy-alert framework
include: the Motion Picture Association of America and
members Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures
Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal City
Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment; and the Recording
Industry Association of America and members Universal Music
Group Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music
Group and EMI Music North America.

Also throwing their support behind the program are the Independent
Film and Television Alliance and the American Association
of Independent Music (A2IM), which represents 283
independent music labels.

Participating ISPs will begin implementing Copyright Alerts
starting later this year.

Under the plan, broadband-service providers will issue a series
of up to six electronic alerts, notifying a subscriber that his
or her account may have been misused for online content theft
of movies, TV shows or music. It also will put in place a system
of “mitigation measures” intended to stop online content theft
on those accounts that “appear persistently to fail to respond
to repeated Copyright Alerts,” according to the CAS coalition.
The “mitigation measures,” which are not mandatory, may
include temporary reduction of Internet speeds or redirection
to a landing page that notifies the subscriber to contact the ISP.
The alerting system does not, “in any circumstance, require
the ISP to terminate an Internet subscriber’s account,” the coalition

The system will let subscribers appeal for an independent
review to determine whether the online activity in question
is lawful or if their account was identified in error. Currently,
ISPs notify subscribers about alleged content theft but there
has been no industry-wide standard for doing so.


The Copyright Alert System members emphasized that many
times subscribers — particularly parents — aren’t aware that
their Internet accounts are being used for piracy. Once they’re
notified of the issue, most broadband subscribers will take
steps to ensure the theft doesn’t happen again, the companies

The approach addresses online piracy in a way “that respects
the privacy and rights of our subscribers,” according to
Verizon general counsel Randal Milch. The effort is “designed
to notify and educate customers, not to penalize them,” he