Coalition draws up ‘copyright alert’ framework

Movie studios, record labels and leading US Internet Service Providers have drawn up a framework for combating online piracy. Under the agreement, which followed months of negotiations, the ISPs will send warnings to customers whose broadband accounts had been used to transmit or receive copyrighted works without permission.

The collaboration will be overseen by the newly created Center for Copyright Information, whose backers include the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents all the major Hollywood studios; the Independent Film & Television Alliance; the Recording Industry Association of America; and ISPs Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Communications and AT&T.

The initiative will target households whose Internet usage indicates that pirated content is either being uploaded or downloaded. As many as six ‘copyright alerts’ will be sent to those homes to let subscribers know that their Internet accounts have been used in an illegal fashion. Subscribers will get a series of warnings in the form of emails or pop-up messages.

Although the ISPs will not automatically shut down a subscriber’s broadband service as punishment for piracy-related activity, users will face repercussions, including the potential to have their Internet connection speeds reduced. Repeat offenders may also be routed to a ‘landing page’ on the Internet when they log on and would be required to contact their ISP to discuss the matter.

Previously, Hollywood and broadband providers had been at odds on the issue of content theft. Hollywood felt ISPs should be more aggressive in fighting piracy, but they proved reluctant to pursue customers for uploading or downloading stolen content. Content providers would prefer ISPs adopt the model in France, which has a ‘three-strikes’ approach that terminates Internet access for people who refuse to heed warnings to stop engaging in illegal activity online.

“This groundbreaking agreement ushers in a new day and a fresh approach to addressing the digital theft of copyrighted works,” said Cary Sherman, President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “We hope that it signals a new era in which all of us in the technology and entertainment value chain work collaboratively to make the Internet a more safe and legal experience for users. It is a significant step forward not only for the creative community, which invests in and brings great entertainment to the public, but for consumers and the legitimate online marketplace as well.”

James Assey, Executive Vice President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which worked in an advisory capacity with ISPs to help complete the agreement, said the NCTA was confident that, once informed that content theft is taking place on their accounts, the great majority of broadband subscribers would take steps to stop it. “That’s why the educational nature of this initiative is so critical,” he asserted.

Michael O’Leary, Executive Vice President for Government Relations at the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA), added that there are more ways to enjoy content legitimately online than ever before. “This agreement will help direct consumers to legal platforms rather than illicit sites, which often funnel profits to criminals rather than the artists and technicians whose hard work makes movies, television, and music possible,” he noted.

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