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Copyright Alert System: Unveiling the “Six Strikes” Program

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Manish Jindal

December 20, 2023

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Copyright Alert System: Unveiling the “Six Strikes” Program

Introducing the Copyright Alert System (CAS), an innovative solution designed to protect and uphold the rights of creators in the digital era.

In a world where online content is easily shared and reproduced, the CAS serves as a vital guardian, ensuring intellectual property is respected and valued.

Developed through collaborative efforts between content creators, internet service providers, and legal authorities, this sophisticated system aims to detect and address copyright infringement swiftly and fairly.

By issuing alerts to users found engaging in unauthorised sharing or distribution of copyrighted material, the CAS promotes awareness, education, and responsible digital practices.

Step into a digital realm where creativity and intellectual property thrive, supported by the robust Copyright Alert System.

What is the Copyright Alert System?

CAS refers to an anti-piracy initiative introduced in 2011 by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) in the United States.

Spearheaded by representatives from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), this strategy aims to combat illegal file sharing.

Under CAS, content owners collaborate with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to identify subscribers engaged in copyright infringement by sharing pertinent information, such as IP addresses.

ISPs subsequently investigate these cases and may take appropriate actions against the offending subscribers to address the issue of unauthorised file sharing.

The Intention Behind the CAS

CAS was initially designed to establish a consumer-centric approach.

It aimed to identify and notify residential wired Internet access service customers (excluding dial-up subscribers) of participating ISPs that had received multiple allegations of online infringement related to P2P networks and applications.

The primary objectives of CAS were to educate consumers, discourage online infringement, and guide them towards lawful sources of online content.

The CCI believed that CAS would effectively reduce both intentional and unintentional copyright infringement.

The goal of the CCI was to educate those who infringed on copyright laws about the potential consequences and encourage them to seek out legitimate online content providers.

Furthermore, the CCI anticipated that individuals who were unknowingly involved in infringement, such as

  • those whose home networks were compromised by unauthorised users, or
  • parents unaware of their children’s infringing activities,

would utilise the knowledge of their account’s involvement to prevent further infringement by addressing the issue with the account users.

Additionally, CAS aimed to foster greater parental engagement by alerting them to any misconduct or abuse occurring through their accounts.

Critics, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), raised concerns about the educational materials provided to consumers, describing them as more akin to propaganda.

They also argued that the framework of CAS potentially violated the principle of presumption of innocence.

How Does it Function?

The functioning of the CAS involves several key steps.

When a user engages in illegal downloading of copyrighted music, movies, or games, the corresponding entertainment company notifies the Internet Service Provider (ISP) associated with that user.

Subsequently, the ISP sends a notice to the customer, informing them about the potential consequences of downloading pirated material.

The term “Six Strike” refers to the possibility that an ISP may suspend a user’s service after sending six notices.

It is important to highlight that ISP participation in CAS is voluntary, as are the actions taken when a customer is accused of piracy.

Furthermore, the CAS does not provide protection for consumers who may face lawsuits from copyright owners.

It should be noted that CAS specifically addresses the act of downloading copyrighted material and does not encompass other forms of online sharing, such as

  • email attachments or
  • cloud-sharing services like Dropbox

Alert System: Steps and Measures

The CAS implemented a series of alerts to address alleged copyright infringement.

Here is an overview of the alert system’s progression:

First and second alerts:

ISP subscribers were notified about allegations of copyright infringement related to their Internet accounts.

These alerts included information on how to prevent future offenses and directed users to legitimate content platforms.

Subsequent alerts:

If the suspected infringement persisted, additional alerts were sent to the subscriber.

These alerts required acknowledgment of receipt by clicking a notice, indicating that the messages were received and understood.

Fifth alert:

At this stage, ISPs were permitted to implement “mitigation measures” aimed at preventing future infringements by the subscriber.

Sixth Alert:

If mitigation measures were not implemented by the ISP after the fifth alert, it was mandatory for them to take action upon receiving the sixth alert.

The specific measures were determined by the ISP and could include temporary reductions in Internet speeds, redirecting users to a landing page until they contacted the ISP to discuss the matter, or presenting educational information about copyright infringement.

Each ISP had its own policies regarding the exact mitigation measures employed.

It’s important to note that the specific actions taken as part of the mitigation measures varied among companies participating in CAS.

Scope of the Problem

The motion picture and music industries face a significant challenge in addressing unauthoried content distribution.

The MPAA estimates that illegal downloading of film and television content costs the U.S. economy a staggering “$58 billion a year and more than 373,000 jobs.”

Additionally, it is believed that approximately 20-30 million instances of copyright infringement occur daily.

Protecting the latest blockbuster movies and popular TV shows from unauthorised distribution online is a complex task.

Efforts to address this matter have been made in the past, such as legislative proposals like SOPA and PIPA which were unsuccessful.

Other approaches have involved legal actions initiated by private entities and government-led efforts to combat internet-based intellectual property theft.

Among these efforts is a privately funded solution known as the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), which encompasses the “Copyright Alert System” as its centerpiece.

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One may come across a downloadable version of a highly anticipated movie on a peer-to-peer network while searching for it.

Tempted, you proceed to download and watch the film.

However, your actions do not go unnoticed.

Soon after, you receive a notice from your ISP informing you that your download was illegal and warning of potential consequences if you continue such activities.

CAS has been introduced, which may seem like a futuristic concept from an online police force, but is now a reality.

Appealing Copyright Alerts: Grounds for Challenge

Subscribers had the option to challenge copyright alerts based on specific pre-defined grounds within the Copyright Alert System (CAS).

The following grounds could be invoked in an appeal:

  1. Misidentification of Account: The subscriber could argue that their account was wrongly identified as the source of copyright infringement, asserting that they were not involved in the alleged activity.
  2. Unauthorised Use of Account: Subscribers could claim that the infringement occurred due to unauthorised and uncontrollable use of their account by others, without their knowledge or consent.
  3. Authorisation: If the subscriber had explicit written authorisation from the copyright holder or a licensed entity to use the work in question, they could challenge the alert based on this ground.
  4. Fair Use: Subscribers could argue that their use of the work identified in the alert fell within the legal definition of fair use as per U.S. copyright law.
  5. Misidentification of File: In cases where the file primarily contained non-infringing material rather than the alleged copyrighted work, subscribers could contest the alert on the grounds of misidentification.
  6. Work Published Before 1923: If the work mentioned in the alert was published prior to 1923, rendering it in the public domain in the United States, subscribers could challenge the alert accordingly.

During the appeal process, it was the responsibility of the subscriber to provide evidence and demonstrate the elements of one of the above grounds to support their challenge.

The burden of proof rested on the subscriber to establish a valid reason for contesting the copyright alert.

Limited ISP Participation in the Copyright Alert System

Unlike the legally mandated “Three Strikes” law in France, the “Six Strikes” program operates on a voluntary basis.

ISPs have the choice to participate in this private initiative, partnering with organisations like the RIAA and MPAA.

There are currently five ISPs participating: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.

It’s important to note that participation in the Copyright Alert System remains selective, with a limited number of ISPs actively involved in its implementation.

Exclusions from the Copyright Alert System’s Scope

Although marketed as a “Copyright Alert System,” it is important to note that the program primarily focuses on individuals who download infringing content from public BitTorrent trackers.

This means that both dedicated pirates and casual infringers have the potential to evade detection through this system.

Currently, the following types of copyright infringement are not targeted:

  1. Viewing unauthorised digital content on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, including TV shows and movies.
  2. Accessing copyrighted material through “file locker” websites instead of peer-to-peer networks.
  3. Utilising peer-to-peer networks other than BitTorrent.
  4. Downloading torrents from private BitTorrent trackers.
  5. Accessing public, infringing torrents through the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

However, it is worth noting that the program may expand to encompass other forms of unauthorised downloading in the future, as its scope and capabilities evolve.

Copyright Alert System and Businesses: Exemptions and Recommendations

CAS and its impact on businesses can vary depending on the type of internet connection being used.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Business-grade Internet connections: CAS does not target businesses operating on business-grade Internet connections. Therefore, businesses utilising such connections will not be subjected to copyright alerts. This includes businesses offering public Wi-Fi services where some customers may have downloaded unauthorised material.
  2. Consumer-grade Internet connections for small businesses: If a small business operates on a consumer-grade Internet connection, it may receive copyright alerts under CAS. This applies even if the business offers public Wi-Fi services using a residential connection.

In such cases, ISPs may recommend that these businesses upgrade to more robust and suitable connections specifically designed for businesses.

Consequences

The consequences following the sixth alert under the CAS might come as a surprise – there are no additional alerts issued.

However, it’s important to note that subscribers may still face potential lawsuits from copyright owners, just as they would have prior to the implementation of CAS.

CAS primarily aims to deter what is often referred to as “casual infringers,” while leaving more severe cases of infringement to be resolved through legal action in the courts.

It serves as a preventive measure to raise awareness and discourage unauthorised sharing, but it does not eliminate the possibility of legal repercussions for copyright infringement.

Conclusion

CAS was introduced as a private initiative aimed at addressing online copyright infringement by educating and deterring consumers.

While it targeted unauthorised downloading from public BitTorrent trackers, CAS had limitations in its coverage of other forms of copyright infringement, such as unauthorised uploads on video-sharing platforms or direct downloads from file locker websites.

CAS operated through a system of alerts, gradually escalating in seriousness and potential consequences.

It provided opportunities for subscribers to challenge alerts based on specific grounds, shifting the burden of proof onto the subscriber during the appeal process.

However, the effectiveness of CAS in reducing intentional and unintentional infringement remained a subject of debate, with critics highlighting concerns about the educational materials and potential infringement of the presumption of innocence.

It’s important to note that CAS was a voluntary program adopted by select Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and its scope and impact varied among participating ISPs.

The evolving nature of copyright infringement and the complexities of enforcing copyright online necessitate ongoing efforts to address the challenges in a balanced manner, considering the rights of copyright holders and the interests of consumers.

As technology and the digital landscape continue to evolve, it is essential to explore comprehensive and effective approaches that promote legal content consumption, protect intellectual property, and strike a fair balance between the rights of copyright holders and the rights of individuals in the online world.

FAQs

How does the Copyright Alert System (CAS) work?

CAS operates by monitoring infringing activities on public BitTorrent trackers and applications.

Content owners provide this information to participating ISPs, who then send alerts to subscribers engaging in copyright infringement.

What are the consequences of receiving copyright alerts?

The consequences of receiving copyright alerts can include educational materials, acknowledgment requests, and potential mitigation measures by ISPs, such as temporary Internet speed reductions or redirection to informational pages.

Can I challenge a copyright alert?

Yes, subscribers have the option to challenge copyright alerts on specific grounds, such as misidentification of the account, unauthorised use of the account, fair use, or misidentification of the file.

The burden of proof lies with the subscriber during the appeal process.

Does CAS target all forms of copyright infringement?

CAS primarily focuses on illegal downloads from public BitTorrent trackers.

Other forms of infringement, such as unauthorised uploads on video platforms or direct downloads from file locker websites, are not currently targeted by CAS.

What is the goal of CAS?

The goal of CAS is to educate and deter subscribers from engaging in copyright infringement.

By raising awareness, providing information, and implementing graduated alerts, CAS aims to promote lawful content consumption and respect for intellectual property rights.

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