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US creatives call for end of Copyright Alert System

The Internet Security Task Force – a newly formed group of small businesses banding together to protect content creators and consumers from the negative effects of piracy – has called for an end to the Copyright Alert System, based on new evidence that shows the anti-piracy initiative is not only ineffective but actually makes matters worse.

In its place, the ISTF hopes America will instead emulate the new Canadian Copyright Modernization Act, which has proven to be highly effective in the few months since the law was enacted.

The Copyright Alert System (CAS) is set to expire early July, but is widely expected to be renewed by leading Internet Service Providers and the major motion picture studios among others. This action is expected despite the fact that online theft of movies, TV shows, music, software and video games has grown 160 per cent in the last two years and now consumes 24 per cent of all Internet band width.

“We’ve always known the Copyright Alert System was ineffective, as it allows people to steal six movies from us before they get an educational leaflet. But now we have the data to prove that it’s a sham,” said ISTF member Mark Gill, President of Millennium Films. “On our film Expendables 3, which has been illegally viewed more than 60 million times, the CAS only allowed 0.3 per cent of our infringement notices through to their customers. The other 99.7 per cent of the time, the notices went in the trash.”

How the Copyright Alert System (Doesn’t) Work

In February 2013, five of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) began implementing the Copyright Alert System (CAS). They are AT&T U-verse, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOs. Together, they control 71 per cent of the US Internet.

The Copyright Alert system gives their customers six chances to illegally download copyrighted material before “mitigation measures” (such as education or reducing download speeds) are implemented.

“These alarming numbers show that the CAS is little more than talking point utilized to suggest these five ISPs are doing something to combat piracy when in actuality, their customers are free to continue pirating content with absolutely no consequences,” said ISTF member Nicolas Chartier, CEO of Voltage. “As for its laughable six strikes policy, would any American retailer wait for someone to rob them six times before handing them an educational leaflet? Of course not, they call the cops the first time around.”

The mechanics of the Copyright Alert System require infringement notices submitted by copyright holders (such as movie companies) to be forwarded by ISPs to customers who have illegally downloaded.

However, on Expendables 3, in the period of September through November 2014, per data collected by CEG-TEK International, an Internet security firm: 0.3 per cent of thieves on these five ISPs received a notice.

By contrast, Charter Communications and Cox Communications (who are not part of the CAS) do forward notices to customers who infringe. The difference in results is substantial.

On Expendables 3 in the period of November 2014 through January 2015, per data collected by CEG-TEK :

  • Cox and Charter ISPs posted a 25.47 per cent decrease in infringements
  • Copyright Alert System ISPs abetted a 4.54 per cent increase in infringements.

A Better Solution: the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act

The ISTF strongly recommends that a better solution be implemented instead—based on the Copyright Modernization Act enacted in Canada in January 2015.

In the 13 weeks since the Copyright Modernization Act was enacted, CEG-TEK  International has experienced the following with its 125 clients in Canada, according to Chief Operating Officer Kyle Reed. “In Canada we are able to leverage the Copyright Modernization Act to compel ISPs to forward our notices. CEG TEK has already produced sizable decreases in piracy amongst five major Canadian ISPs. In under 13 weeks CEG TEK has effected massive changes in the Canadian market on behalf of our clients. Peer-to-peer (P2P) piracy of our clients’ content has dropped by the following amounts:

  • Bell Canada – 69.6 per cent decrease
  • Telus Communications – 54.0 per cent decrease
  • Shaw Communications – 52.1 per cent decrease
  • TekSavvy Solutions – 38.3 per cent decrease
  • Rogers Cable – 14.9 per cent decrease”

The Internet Security Task Force has sent a letter to the major participants in the voluntary programme — including AT&T U-verse, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOs, the Motion Picture Association of American, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Independent Film and Television Alliance—requesting they let the CAS expire and instead adopt new guidelines similar to the Copyright Modernization Act passed in Canada in January 2015.

“Small businesses simply can’t survive the kind of economic devastation that comes with a major theft,” said ISTF member Alex Walton, President of Bloom. “It’s long past time everyone involved in creating, producing and distributing content gets serious about solving the problem.”

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