ISPs Launch Major Piracy Crackdown

Dennis Faas's picture

Some of America's leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have reached an agreement with movie and music companies to punish customers who breach copyright laws. But while the sanctions are lighter than rights owners would like, the move could still spark a legal debate.

The deal involves AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, along with industry bodies for Hollywood studios, record labels and TV producers. It's being organized under the newly-formed Center for Copyright Information.

Although it's an industry program and isn't governed by legal regulations, there are reports that White House officials played a role in pressuring ISPs to take the action. (Source:

No Permanent Cut-Off Planned

Under the new system, alleged offenders will get up to six warnings when they are suspected of downloading or sharing copyrighted material without permission.

After that the ISP will take action, such as slowing access speeds or blocking Internet access until the customer contacts them to discuss the issue. It's being stressed that ISPs won't permanently disconnect customers as part of the scheme.

Those behind the system argue that it will act as a warning mechanism to casual offenders, and that it will make parents aware when children are downloading illegally.

The US plan appears loosely based on a system in France by which customers get two warnings and, after a third alleged offense, are disconnected.

Independent Appeal An Option

In the US system, those punished will have the opportunity to request an independent review, though this won't be through the legal system.

That's raising concern, with arguments arising that the system finds people guilty until proven innocent, and that even a temporary block on Internet use is unjustified without passing a legal burden of proof. (Source:

There's also some suspicion as to how rigidly an ISP will enforce the new rules, given the risk that it may mean losing those customers who have the ability to switch to another provider that isn't part of the scheme.

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