In an attempt to curb the unauthorized file sharing that has bedeviled the entertainment industry for over a decade, several major Internet Service Providers have agreed to implement a “graduated response” policy to educate — and potentially penalize — users caught illegally sharing copyrighted material online. To do this, ISPs will seek out hotbeds of peer-to-peer activity and target offending IP addresses. The policy is the result of collaboration and negotiation between ISPs and major content companies (think film studios and major labels).
According to what we’ve seen, the Copyright Alert System appears to focus more on education than punitive measures. This makes sense, as ISPs don’t want to lose customers. To address the issue, they have chosen to implement a progressive system of notifications and alerts, which include information about copyright law. Still, the policy does include “mitigation measures” after the fifth or sixth “strike,” which could limit users’ Internet speed or redirect landing pages (or some combination). Implementation will be key, but for now, it seems that the ISPs have no intention of shutting off Internet access or otherwise expelling users. In the mitigation stage, users will have the ability to contest the accusation(s) before an arbitration body agreed upon by the ISPs and content companies. None of this goes on a “permanent record” — if an infringer plays it legit for a full year, the strikes get wiped clean.
Here’s FMC’s official statement, attributed to Deputy Director Casey Rae-Hunter:
“Protecting intellectual property online is important to the establishment of a legitimate digital music marketplace that rewards both musicians and fans. While it is too early to tell whether a graduated response policy will have any measurable effect on the unauthorized distribution of music files, the framework does seem to strike an appropriate balance between access to a crucial communications platform and the need to protect the rights of artists.
Today’s announcement of an agreement between the biggest ISPs and content industry is significant, but doesn’t tell the whole story about creators and the internet. There is still more to be done to ensure that musicians can benefit from digital technologies to grow and sustain their careers. The ability for artists to reach audiences directly and participate in new and innovative business models is crucial to the future of music. Any sensible policy around copyright online would provide protections to creators while keeping the internet open for access and innovation. We hope that this is the case with these agreements.”