Business, Economics and Jobs

'Copyright Alert System' goes live


Union workers picket outside a Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco, Calif., on Aug. 9, 2011.


Justin Sullivan

A new program that targets US citizens who illegally download copyrighted material has launched today. The program, called the "Copyright Alert System," is backed by leading Internet service providers including AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast, CNET reported.

The program is unique because it targets consumers rather than pirates.

Under the system, consumers get "six strikes." People who download illegal files will see a graduated response for each of the six times they're caught, AllHipHop News reported. For the first strike, the ISP sends a notice letting the customer know that they are downloading illegal material.

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If the customer is caught again, the copyright alerts get more intense. Consumers don't have to worry about going to jail, but they could be punished in other ways, such as the slowing of their internet speed or getting forced into a "copyright education program" to maintain internet access.

The Copyright Alert System is an effort by the entertainment industry and other content owners to monitor public data on peer-to-peer networks, Mashable reported.  Some advocates, such as Demand Progress, say that this amounts to spying on Internet users. But other advocates say it's not clear yet if that is true.

"Our ultimate take is it's kind of a wait-and-see, this could work out OK, it could play, in fact, a positive role, but how it plays out in actual practice is just something that we're going to have to closely scrutinize, because there are certainly ways where if something were to go wrong it could end up having an unfair, negative impact on users," David Song, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Project on Copyright and Technology, told Mashable.