Even as France looks set to scrap its three-strikes antipiracy scheme known as HADOPI, US Internet providers are inching forward with their milder “six strikes” program. But the head of that effort says the system is about education, and it is coming by the end of the year.
Last year, the newly formed Center for Copyright Information (CCI), along with major ISPs across the US and representatives from the recording and film industries, agreed to come up with a six-stage warning scheme that would progressively impose warnings—and eventually penalties—on alleged online copyright infringers. Collectively, once deployed, the system could cover 75 percent of all American Internet users.
The Copyright Alert System, as it’s formally known, was originally slated to deploy by the end of December 2011, a date that was then pushed back to July 2012. Now the CCI’s head, Jill Lesser, tells Ars the group is on track to launch by the end of the year. However, Lesser provided scant new details about the program.
“We are still very much intending to launch this year, but in no way was missing a July deadline a missed deadline,” she said in a recent interview. “This isn’t the American version of the French system, and it isn’t a baseball game.”
The ISPs involved are keeping quiet as well. A spokesperson for Comcast, the country’s largest ISP, e-mailed Ars to say the company did not “have anything to further announce or comment on at this time.”
Strikes vs. alerts
Lesser was reluctant to provide additional details beyond the Memorandum of Understanding published in July 2011. She emphasized that this MoU refers to the program as a “learning experience” for Internet users.
“It is not a six strikes program,” she said. “This is an educational program; there are a series of educational alerts that will be sent out to subscribers.”
Lesser pointed out that the word “strike” has a punitive connotation—as in baseball—and the new program is meant to educate account holders and younger users about the perils of downloading unauthorized content. She argued that the program is mainly designed to help steer online users toward legal content.
Lesser did not explain how this not-quite-six-strike program would actually work in practice. As we have reported, the program will be increasing warning levels, requiring users to acknowledge receipt of those warnings and possibly reducing their Internet speed.
Will this eventually result in cutting people off from the Internet? Lesser says it’s up to the Internet provider. “Each of the ISPs is going to have their own mitigation measure,” Lesser added. “It will always happen after the user has been given an opportunity to conduct an independent review. The ISP has discretion what the mitigation measure is.”
She said that if a user reaches the fifth or sixth stage, “they are pushed through to a 10 minute educational video,” and if that doesn’t change their behavior, “they are then, from our perspective, out of the program.” At that point, ISPs can make their own decision about what step to take next, including disconnection. Lawsuits could also be filed by rightsholders.
“At that point, all of the tools that the content owners and the ISPs have at their disposal are there,” she said. “ISPs can, and have, taken action based on that. Content owners we know have taken action against large-scale pirates.”