AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon have struck a voluntary agreement with the music, movie and television industries to “punish” customers whose accounts are allegedly being used to download or distribute illegal movies, television shows or music. The punishment will be dealt out via a series of six warnings.
When a copyright owner first complains to an ISP (likely via sniffing out IP addresses via BitTorrent), it will trigger an online alert such as an e-mail to the subscriber explaining how to avoid copyright violations in the future and how to lawfully obtain content in the future.
A second alert may follow if the illicit file-sharing persists, or the ISP may move on to the next alert. With the third alert, there will be a pop-up notice or landing page to ensure that the subscriber received the message. There is also a fourth alert, basically the same as the last.
On the fifth alert, the ISP may take action, such as temporarily reducing connection speeds or requiring the user to review and respond to educational information on copyright. The ISP may also skip the mitigation measures and just issue another alert.
By the sixth alert, all participating ISPs will either temporarily reduce the user’s connection speed or require educational measures via redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter.
Under the agreement, ISPs will never have to terminate an Internet connection entirely, or otherwise interfere with the subscriber’s ability to receive phone calls and e-mails.
The system is aimed at pirated music, movies and other content shared through online peer-to-peer networks. The program, a voluntary set of industry best practices, is backed by trade groups including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
“This broad industry effort builds on existing agreements with several copyright owners to forward their notices of alleged infringement to ISP subscribers,” Verizon General Counsel Randal Milch said. “[This] is designed to notify and educate customers, not to penalize them…and is aimed at informing customers about copyright laws and encouraging them to obtain content from the many legal sources that exist.”
No new laws or regulations are involved, and ISPs won’t exchange personal information with copyright holders except by subpoena or court order.
For subscribers who believe they’ve been falsely accused of copyright infringement, they can request an independent review of any claim against them for $35.
RBR-TVBR observation: The agreement was likely struck because the ISPs recognize that their own revenue depends partly on bundled content and premium content distribution. Also, with Comcast buying NBCU and Time Warner owning both Time Warner Cable and networks such as Turner Broadcasting, CNN and HBO, the bottom line losses due to illicit file sharing are more than ever shared under the same corporate umbrella — the distributor as well as the content producer/rights holder.