Sometime in the next few months, the five major US Internet Service Providers will implement what is called the "Copyright Alert System," known colloquially as "six strikes." Brooke talks to Jill Lesser, Executive Director of industry group the Center for Copyright Information, about how the six strikes program will work.
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BROOKE GLADSTONE: Starting in the next couple of months, five of the country's largest Internet service providers, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon will implement what is called the Copyright Alert System, known colloquially as “six strikes.”
In the works for over a year, the system is meant to create an escalating series of penalties for serial illegal downloaders. Jill Lesser is the executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, which is a collaboration between organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, with the ISPs, to implement the Copyright Alert System. Jill, welcome to On the Media.
JILL LESSER: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The system works by content holders joining peer-to-peer networks, in order to monitor what kind of material is being illegally downloaded, right? And then what happens?
JILL LESSER: And then they identify individual files and send notices to Internet service providers, who then pass those notices on to their customers, in the form of copyright alerts.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What do these alerts look like?
JILL LESSER: So the initial alerts inform the primary account holder that somebody made content available illegally over their Internet connection. They explain to the consumer how this might have happened and what the consumer can do to ensure it doesn't happen again.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Like what?
JILL LESSER: Like ensuring their wireless connection is password protected. They also provide links to authorize legal ways for you to find that content.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay, you've got your first alert, which you describe. And the second alert is basically similar to the first. [LAUGHS] And then the third alert in the fourth alert also similar to those educational messages but they will appear in a conspicuous manner, and that will require the user to acknowledge that you've gotten the alert. Then you get to the fifth alert, and this refers to so-called “mitigation measures.”
JILL LESSER: So the mitigation measures are intended to really get people's attention. They range from putting a user through a copyright tutorial – you know, what is copyright, how have you potentially engaged in illegal behavior - to a couple-of-day reduction in Internet speed, depending on the ISP.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And so far I understand there are no plans by any of the ISPs to include actually disconnecting users from the Internet as part of the punishments. But Verizon will slow the Internet speed to potentially 256 kilobytes per second, which is basically unusable by any modern Internet standards. So isn’t that the same?
JILL LESSER: No, it really isn’t the same. The reduction of speed which one or more of the ISPs will be using as the mitigation measure, is – first of all, it’s only 48 hours, which is far from termination. I think at the point that you have received “This is your fifth copyright alert,” you have acknowledged two of them and you are still engaging in copyright infringement, then that person might need an extra, [LAUGHS] “You know, you really need to stop.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I wanted to ask you, though, about the people who may feel that they are being wrongly accused. The appeals process involves a $35 fee, which would be refunded if the appealer wins. Is this to keep people from filing nuisance appeals?
JILL LESSER: I think it is intended, certainly, to discourage frivolous appeals. It is, as you said, refunded if successful, and it is also waiveable if someone can’t afford it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What happens if you get seven, eight and nine strikes?
JILL LESSER: We hope that by the time people get to alerts number five or six, they will stop. Once they’ve been mitigated, they've received several alerts, we're just not gonna send them any more alerts because they’re not the kind of customer that we’re going to reach with this program.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So what happens to them?
JILL LESSER: Nothing under this program.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So either they get sued by someone or you stop mitigating and you just give up and walk away.
JILL LESSER: Exactly. But let me just say this: If we reach consumers where they can hear us – you know, this is what this means and this is how you can find content in a legal way - we hope we will actually not be sending a lot of fifth and sixth notices.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: As you’ve described it, the Copyright Alert System, it's unlikely to stop or even catch the worst offenders because those knowledgeable offenders will use virtual private networks and, and they’ll figure out ways to avoid detection.
JILL LESSER: There are certainly other ways that content owners address those issues, but for us it is reaching the casual infringer, which is a large percentage of peer-to-peer piracy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You know, the Recording Industry Association of America filed 20,000 lawsuits against infringers that it said was meant to, quote, “educate” but it didn't end up slowing piracy at all.
JILL LESSER: It’s been at least five years since suing individuals was really a strategy of the industry. I think part of the reason why they came to the table to do this kind of a voluntary educational effort is in the hopes of having a different kind of approach and one that says to consumers, this behavior needs to stop, but also helps consumers, number one, understand why and, number two, find what they're looking for in a legal authorized way.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Wouldn’t it have been great if this had all happened five years ago or ten?
JILL LESSER: I think we would be in a different place, yes. [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Jill, thank you very much.
JILL LESSER: You're welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Jill Lesser is the executive director of the Center for Copyright Information.
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