A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official stated on Wednesday that an anti-piracy program involving major internet service providers is now in full effect, more than a year after news of the so-called Copyright Alert System was first reported.
“The last year has been a ramp-up … March is the first month those [notices] are going out to full capacities,” said Rick Cotton, speaking at a copyright event in New York.
Cotton, who heads the Chamber’s anti-counterfeiting and piracy division, was referring to a system in which five ISPs (AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon) agreed to undertake an escalating series of measures against alleged infringers on behalf of content owners, beginning with a warning notice.
Cotton claimed the scheme has reduced piracy, but declined to provide specific details such as how many times the ISPs have taken action against their subscribers. A recent report suggested Comcast alone has sent out 625,000 notices.
The American version is different in that it contains six strikes, not three, and is a voluntary arrangement between studios and the ISPs. It also doesn’t culminate in the ISPs cutting off internet service, but instead slowing it down.
“There’s an enormous fall-off when people get the first notice,” said Cotton, adding that it is too early to talk about the system’s more severe measures. “The vast majority of people say they stop when they receive the notice.”
Robert Levine, the host of the event and the author of a popular book defending copyright, pointed out to Cotton that people wishing to avoid the six-strikes system can turn to technology like encryption and virtual private networks. Cotton acknowledged that “piracy will never go away” but that the goal for now is to focus on education rather than enforcement.
A long-time lawyer for NBC, Cotton’s view is that the “infrastructure sector” of the internet — ISPs, payment systems, ad networks and so on — is more willing than in the past to tell users “what the rules of the road are.” He also also described copyright infringers as “criminals,” which is unlikely to endear with many in the technology sector, who are critical of the hard lines espoused by big content owners.
Overall, the event, which was hosted by the Copyright Clearance Center, reflected one side of a familiar dichotomy over the internet, which many content owners have long regarded with fear and mistrust.