The US entertainment cartel has finally found a pimp, however inadequte it may be: Your internet service provider. After more than four years of navel-gazing and arm twisting, the Copyright Alert System (CAS)—an agreement between the entertainment cartel and the country’s largest internet service providers to monitor networks for copyright infringement—has finally launched. The CAS is administered by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI).
The CCI website takes a laughably incomplete approach to intellectual property law, willfully avoiding any mention of free expression, fair use, public domain, and alternative licensing arrangements (like Creative Commons).
Penalties for those suspected to be infringing the cartel’s copyright range from forced annoying emails and re-education to browser hijacking, connection speed throttling, and other network connectivity disruptions. Internet service providers initially participating in CAS are AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon. According to David Kravets writing for Wired, CAS uses technology from MarkMonitor to surveil peer-to-peer file-sharing services like BitTorrent.
Christopher S. Stewart and Shalini Ramachandran, writing for the Wall Street Journal, report CAS “involves a progressively assertive series of six alerts, starting with a letter or email about the infraction and escalating to where it may slow down a user’s internet connection.” Reportedly, after four suspected offenses, the participating internet service providers institute so-called “mitigation measures” against their offending customers. While the CCI’s website contains nary a mention of terminating the accounts of suspected infringers, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires internet service providers to terminate the accounts of repeat copyright infringers.
Rebecca Greenfield, writing for the Atlantic, notes that the severity of response varies between the participating internet service providers:
- Cablevision “will do the bare minimum” and merely send out lengthy notices to its customers suspected of infringing behavior.
- Comcast will send its suspected infringing customers to re-education camp, requiring them to watch a video.
- Verizon will slow down the connection speed of its suspected infringing customers, after six notifications.
- Time Warner, after three suspected violations, will redirect their customer’s internet connection to a webpage asking the customer to agree to refrain from infringing behavior. After four suspected violations, the customer’s connection will be terminated until the customer calls Time Warner and promises to refrain from the infringing behavior.
- AT&T, after four suspected instances of infringement, will filter destination IP addresses for “certain websites” and redirect the customer to an “educational” webpage. After six suspected violations, the carrier will terminate the customer’s connection until the customer completes a course on intellectual property law. Of all the internet service providers, AT&T is the only one that publicly states it “may pursue legal action against the customer” after five suspected instances of infringement.
David Kravets, in a follow-up for Wired, reports a much different picture regarding the severity of response of the participating internet service providers:
- Comcast will hijack the browsers of suspected repeat infringers after four instances of suspected violations.
- Cablevision will suspend the accounts of suspected infringers for 24 hours after five suspected instances of infringement.
Bottom line: No one knows for sure just how CAS is going to shake out and what the participating internet service providers intend to do with regard to enforcement.