How will the Copyright Alert System Affect You?

In short, it probably won’t.  And there are two main reasons why – first you have to be suspected of online piracy and second and probably more important you have to be using the ISP services of one of the participating providers – AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.

The gist of what the Copyright Alert System will do is media groups such as the RIAA and MPAA, which are being referred to as “content partners”, will keep a watch on peer to peer file sharing networks and report those they suspect of violating copyrights to the participating ISPs.  And here’s where it gets complicated, once it has been determined that a user is sharing illegal content then the ISP will send you a warning the first time.

Here is a sample from Comcast of one version of Warning #1.  As you can see, you hardly have to bother to read the message, simply “Click to Close” and the annoying pop-up goes away.


Depending on your provider the second time you’ll likely have to call your ISP to discuss your online activity or log into your account to acknowledge receipt of the warning.  On your third warning your connection speeds may get throttled.  As if three warnings aren’t enough, the documentation that’s come out is calling it a “six strike” system.  Although what happens after the sixth “warning” is a bit hazy as there’s no indication your account would be terminated at that point.

The participating ISPs have said that this does not change their policy on handing over end user information and it will still require a subpoena before providing that information.

Sample from Comcast of one version of Warning #5.

Comcast2The primary goal of the Copyright Alert System is to educate those who don’t realize what they are doing, via file sharing, is illegal.  It’s hard to imagine that anyone believes it’s actually legal to share copyrighted content on the Internet, but I’m sure there are a few, especially the very young who don’t realize they’re committing a crime.  In the end it may be those few who will benefit by not being sued for what they feel is an honest mistake.  As for the rest, they know exactly what they are doing and will simply find ways around the new system.

While we’ve seen a serious contraction of local vs national ISPs in the last decade, this may spur the growth of the remaining local ISPs and bring some new companies into the market.  We’re not saying anyone who reads this article would ever share illegal content over the Internet, but say if a person does it regularly they are likely savvy enough to move away from the participating ISPs to continue their activity.  And if they’re not, then they are extremely naive and deserve to get caught or as the new system indicates warned repeatedly.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top