A system that aims to curb Internet users from sharing copyrighted content is being rolled out in the United States after a number of delays.
Backed by major Internet service providers, the Copyright Alert System (CAS) will require the ISPs to warn and educate users if alerted by owners of copyrighted material, and even throttle Internet speeds after six warnings, popularly referred to as "six-strikes."
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In a FAQ section, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the organization behind CAS, said that there will not be any monitoring of Internet traffic by ISPs, and the identification of alleged infringement will be done by content owners on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks only. The CAS applies only to P2P networks and not to general Internet use, it added.
Subscribers will also not be blacklisted, and regardless of the number of notices they have received, these will be cleared if the ISP does not receive further notices of alleged infringement for a continuous 12-month period.
The move by the CCI is likely to raise issues relating to privacy and the sharing and fair use of copyrighted material. "Just because content is copyrighted doesn't mean sharing it is illegal," online rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a post on Monday. "It would be better to have a rigorous process that ensures the use identified is actually infringing."
"It would be even better to have a process that was vetted by a truly independent entity, and public review of the full results," EFF said.
The CAS marks a new way to reach consumers who may be engaging in P2P piracy, wrote Jill Lesser, executive director of CCI, in a blog post on Monday.
The members of CCI include five major Internet service providers: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, and music and movie industries associations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The ISPs could not be immediately contacted for their plan of action.
The CAS was initially announced in July 2011.
"Over the course of the next several days our participating ISPs will begin rolling out the system," Lesser wrote. Content partners will now begin to send notices of alleged P2P copyright infringement to ISPs, and the ISPs will begin forwarding those notices in the form of copyright alerts to consumers, she added.
Consumers whose accounts have been used to share copyrighted content over P2P networks illegally, or without authority, will receive alerts that are meant to educate rather than punish, and direct them to legal alternatives, Lesser said.
After six alerts, which are largely described as educational, the alerts will result in "mitigation measures," which will not however result in an account termination, according to CCI. Users may instead face a temporary reduction of Internet speed, redirection to a landing page until the primary account holder of the account contacts the ISP, and redirection to a landing page where the primary account holder must review and respond to educational information. ISPs have an option of modifying the provisions, but cannot terminate accounts as a mitigation measure.