Three Strikes…You’re Out?

Last February, the Copyright Alert System (CAS), or the “six strikes” program, went into effect. The program is an agreement between the major media companies and the major Internet service providers[1] (ISPs) to monitor peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic for infringing uses. France, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, and Ireland also have similar measures (“three strikes”). The ISPs send up to six electronic warnings notifying subscribers of alleged copyright infringement.[2] For the alleged infringing user, penalties can include fines, bandwidth throttling, or even temporary/permanent internet disconnection.

The program has come under a ton of (warranted) scrutiny.[3]  The program’s intent is to curb online piracy, while simultaneously educating consumers about copyright law. However, recently published research suggests that these anti-piracy programs are failing. The research, based upon a survey of 2,000 French Internet users, finds that the “three strikes” law did not stop or even reduce piracy in the country.[4]

The weakness in these “strikes” programs is that P2P file-sharing only accounts for one method in which users download copyrighted content, failing to account for users who utilize newsgroups and direct download sites. Additionally, and more importantly, these “strikes” programs are simply encouraging users to “substitute away from the monitored P2P channels and to obtain content through unmonitored illegal channels.”

If the intent of the “six strikes” program is to curb online piracy, it is, based upon the parallels we can extrapolate from the French study, failing miserably.



[1] AT&T, Time Warner, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision.

[2] The system of alerts is as follows:

  • The first and second alerts will notify ISP subscribers that their Internet account has allegedly been used for copyright infringement via the use of bittorrent and provide an explanation of how to avoid future offenses, as well as direct users to lawful media content site.
  • If the user’s behavior persists, a third and fourth alert will be sent. These alerts will ask “the subscriber to acknowledge receipt” of the messages by clicking a notice.
  • After a fifth alert, ISPs will be allowed to take “mitigation measures” to prevent future infringement.
  • If the ISP did not institute a mitigation measure following the fifth alert, it must enact one after the sixth alert.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_alert_system#Alerts

[3] Lack of public input and transparency, reliance on ISPs to heavily snoop on their users (a topic that has since come to a head with the NSA goings-ons), failure to take fair-use into account, the program allows private corporations (movie studios, music labels, etc) to set up a quasi-legal process when the legal system is the appropriate venue for those arguments.

[4] http://torrentfreak.com/three-strikes-law-does-nothing-to-curb-piracy-research-finds-140122/

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