Internet Providers Launching Copyright Alert System Today to Warn Customers About Downloading Content

Five of the United States’ largest Internet service providers are launching today what they call a new system that will “educate” customers about downloading copyrighted content by issuing warnings instead of lawsuits. The program, called the Copyright Alert System, is a creation of the Internet providers and the trade associations representing the film and music industries, and is designed to reduce the amount of content obtained via file-sharing services such as BitTorrent.

Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Cablevision, and Time Warner are all participating in the program, meaning that the so-called “six strikes” system will apply to most U.S. households with a broadband Internet connection. The trade groups involved include the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, along with their member corporations.

Under the system’s rules, customers found to have downloaded copyrighted content without paying will be issued a series of warnings, along with an increasing chance that their Internet service will be throttled. Customers who receive those warnings may also find themselves suddenly redirected to a website scolding them for their downloads.

Users who receive these warnings may also find themselves blocked from certain “frequently visited” websites, according to documents about the plan obtained last year by Torrent Freak, a website that reports on news about file-sharing. The Copyright Alert System was originally supposed to launch last November, but was delayed until today.

The documents also state that content owners and ISPs could pursue legal action after the fifth warning, though for the most part, the Copyright Alert System is designed to be an extrajudicial program set up by Internet and entertainment companies.

Warnings, the system’s website advises, are issued when content owners find which Internet Protocol addresses are sharing copyrighted materials, then turn those addresses over to the service providers, who in turn identify the associated customer. The warnings can be challenged via the American Arbitration Association, which charges a filing fee.

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