The five major internet service providers in the United States will launch the “Six Strikes anti-piracy plan on February 25. The plan targets individuals who illegally download films, music and other media. AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cablevision agreed to implement the plan. A Feb. 25 article in WebProNews says that the long delayed program, officially titled Copyright Alert System, could already be in effect.
A Feb. 23 article in International Business Times says that the plan “was devised by entertainment lobbying groups, including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in conjunction with every major Internet service provider, or ISP, in the U.S.”
The service providers set the conditions because the Copyright Alert System is a private initiative, not a law. The customer must accept the new anti-piracy conditions as part of their internet service contracts. At issue is program transparency, or what the ISPs will actually be doing to monitor consumer activity. The ISPs refuse to give details about monitoring tactics.
Offenders will receive an automated, escalating series of punishments when the system detects pirating.
At the first or second offense, the account holder will receive two emails and a voice mail announcing they have been pirating. On the third or fourth offense, the ISP will force the customer over to an “educational” page.
The customers remain frozen until they click to confirm that they understand the educational page.
At the fifth or sixth offense, the customer’s internet speed will be “throttled” or slowed to a trickle for several days.
At that point, the ISP will have plenty of evidence that the customer is engaged in internet piracy with repeat offenses. The evidence could support lawsuits, attempts to collect unpaid fees and account terminations.
There are problems with the system. If other people access a customer’s account for pirating, the ISP will hold the account holder responsible.
One unverified claim is that copyright holders could make accusations and, with little proof, force the ISPs put a customer at any alert level. It will cost $35 to appeal the accusations and to go into mediation. The problem for ISPs is that a massive number of irate customers can fire their service providers if they feel widely mistreated or falsely accused.
Another problem is that skilled internet pirates have already figured out how to get around the system. One method is to hack into protected wireless networks. Another trick is to use open web access points like the ones at internet cafés. Users could also install software that disguises a computer’s IP address.
Open wireless proponents want free Internet access for all. They are not happy with the Six-Strikes system because punishing an open network could compromise many innocent people's internet access.
For the vast majority of internet service consumers, the Copyright Alert System is a reminder to keep security high, control access to the computer, protect their wireless access and to stop anyone who might use their computer to steal music, movies and copyrighted files.