Copyright Alert System: Companies doing what SOPA couldn’t

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By Joshua Ostrer

The public outcry that Wikipedia, Google and many other high-traffic websites raised over SOPA is being re-visited in a completely different form. That form is the Copyright Alert System (CAS), which seeks to limit online piracy by approaching the web user and not the website itself.

According to its website, the CAS, which will be run by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), “was formed as a part of a collaborative effort between U.S. content creators in the movie and music industries and leading ISPs [Internet service providers] to help educate the public and deter copyright infringement and offer information about legal content options and protecting personal computers from unintentional file sharing through P2P [peer to peer] networks.” The CAS works by having system content owners (MPAA and RIAA governing bodies and members), like Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Music Entertainment and many more, notify a participating ISP that their copyrights are being misused online. The ISP will then determine which subscriber the account is associated with and identify the user, providing an alert that the subscriber’s account is potentially being misused for illegal file sharing.

The CAS has also been referred to as the “six-step plan” due to its six level alert system. While a first alert is only a notification providing links to educational resources, the punishments escalate with each additional alert. The third alert requires the subscriber to electronically acknowledge the notification. The fifth alert can result in “temporary reductions of Internet speeds” and the sixth and final alert will consist of “multiple mitigation measures” not specifically outlined. The CCI expects that not many users will persist to illegally pirate content when they are made aware of the illegality of their actions.

The White House also endorsed the CAS. “The joining of Internet service providers and entertainment companies in a cooperative effort to combat online infringement can further this goal and we commend them for reaching this agreement. We believe it will have a significant impact on reducing online piracy,” said U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel.

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