updated 06:45 pm EDT, Thu July 7, 2011
Some US ISPs confirm copyright alert plans
Internet providers on Thursday formally revealed their pacts with the MPAA and RIAA to curb piracy. The new strategy (below) used by AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, and others will first send "educational messages" to an Internet account if a music or video producer sends a notice of an alleged copyright infringement. If a content producer detects another incident, the notice will require a click through receipt that will prove they had received a warning and which could theoretically be used to sue the account holder for knowingly ignoring any warnings.
If none of these are effective, the ISPs have the discretion to use "mitigation measures," according to the interpretation. As leaked earlier, these could include throttling the connection, temporary forced redirects that have the user face either the ISP or read pro-copyright material, or otherwise take actions that would be impossible to ignore. The Center for Copyright Information, which handles the new policy, is explicit in saying ISPs wouldn't be pushed to cut off a user's whole Internet connection but would only have provisions to keep voice, e-mail, health, and security services alive.
Providers can skip the toughest measures if they like, the alliance said.
Hoping to deflect legal challenges, the partners allowed for the prospect of an independent review from a non-CCI agency. Asking for a review costs $35 but can be waived, they said. If they believe the claims are serious enough, Internet users are promised that they can challenge any claims in court rather than being forced through arbitration.
The CCI sensed the expected reaction and rejected the idea that this was an attempt to edge closer to three-strikes laws like France's HADOPI, where Internet providers are required to disconnect users that only have a small amount of defense. This was just a "best practices" guide, the collective insisted, and the goal was simply to steer users more towards legal content.
Critics have nonetheless noted that the call fora receipt in the last steps is a convenient way of generating evidence that could be used for a lawsuit. The companies' own acknowledgment that they "don't know who downloaded and shared" files has also raised concerns that the move could affect someone whose connection is being used without permission. Policies like these can create a risk of ISPs losing their safe harbor rights, although the CCI stressed that ISPs weren't being asked to snoop on users.
CCI was also accused of attacking peer-to-peer content as a whole, falsely claiming that just using P2P by itself was a risk that could expose bank accounts and other information.