February 26, 2013

Anti-piracy three strike system begins this week


On Monday, five of the United States’ largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) initiated the new Copyright Alert System, so now would be the time to start downloading Girls on your neighbor’s wifi.

As was previously mentioned on MobyLives, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), which is an amalgamation of AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, as well as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), will begin using annoyance to enforce a particularly maximalist version of copyright.

The Alert System will send two email alerts to begin with, informing the subscriber that potentially infringing activity has been taking place on their internet connection, while further offenses could result in a period of slowed internet speed, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter, or redirection to an educational information page.

According to David Kravets at Wired, your downloads will be snooped on by Reuters-owned MarkMonitor, whose anti-piracy service promises that it,

“Efficiently detects piracy across the Internet by simultaneously monitoring millions of P2P users across all major networks, streaming sites, auction sites, blogs, exchanges, websites and online forums…[and] provides extensive forensic evidence for possible future legal action against online pirates.”

The MPAA and RIAA will tell MarkMonitor what films, shows and music to look for, and MarkMonitor will pass on your IP address to the ISP, who will then contact you.

The System has worried open internet access advocates and fans of fair use, because as Corynne McSherry notes at the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, the CCI does not seem to have many safeguards in place to prevent legitimate uses of copyrighted works from being quashed.

Further, when the CCI writes that “subscribers are responsible for making sure their Internet account is not used for copyright infringement”, McSherry says,

“not so—at least not under copyright law, unless additional conditions are met. We don’t all have to sign up to be copyright police, though if your ISP is part of the deal—AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon—you’ve signed up to be policed.

Although it remains be seen how much the System will in fact curb online piracy, the policy has been given tacit approval by the US government, as emails between ranking Obama officials and the lobbying arms of the MPAA and RIAA show. Released last year as part of a freedom of information request from researcher Christopher Soghoian, the emails are worrying. Kravets writes,

“The records show the government clearly had a voice in the closed-door negotiations, though it was not a signatory to the historic accord, which isn’t an actual government policy.”

My biggest concern is that the System does not turn into an evidence-gathering service for the entertainment lobby. Although IP addresses are not to be shared between the ISPs and the content providers, once it’s clear that this system is not an efficient deterrent (and it probably won’t be), surely their last ditch effort cannot help but be more draconian?


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.