This is a Message About the “Copyright Alert System”

The newly formed Center for Copyright Information (“CCI”) is set to launch its first educational initiative by year’s end with the Copyright Alert System (“CAS”).[1]  CAS is the formal moniker for the six-step gradual plan in development for the past four years to combat copyright infringement perpetrated through peer-to-peer (“P2P”) file sharing on the Internet.[2]  The CCI is comprised of representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”),[3] Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”),[4] and Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”),[5] all having a particular interest in combating copyright infringement through the Internet.[6]  Content providers lose revenue from the unauthorized sharing and downloading of their content on P2P platforms and the ISPs have to spend money to implement procedures to track infringers and comply with subpoena responses and other investigative requests by copyright holders.

The CAS provides ISP subscribers suspected of being repeat infringers with six alerts, primarily by email, warning them of their status as a repeat offender and of future action that will be taken against them if they do not cease their infringing activity.[7]  The expected substantive alerts will consist of the following:

Alert 1

ISP sends written alert informing the subscriber that his/her account has been suspected of infringing activities.

  • Educational resources recommendation
  • Security check recommendation
  • Theft protection procedures
  • Lawful resources for copyrighted content
Alert 2

Significantly replicates the first but will emphasize the educational messages

  • ISPs have option to skip right to the third alert.
Alert 3

At this point the account has been completely flagged as an infringer and the ISP will issue an alert through a “conspicuous mechanism” like a pop up window or landing screen when the user goes online.

  • User must acknowledge receipt of warning
  • Notice of occurrence of prohibited use
  • Notice of legal consequences of infringement
Alert 4 This alert also significantly resembles Alert 3.
Alert 5

The fifth alert is where the ISP takes the opportunity to begin its mitigation measures against the subscriber.

  • Reduce internet speeds
  • Withhold internet connection until
    • Mandatory live conversation with ISP rep, or
    • Subscriber must review and respond to educational material
Alert 6

This final alert may act as a number of initiatives.

  • Mitigation measures
  • Notice if suit filed[8]

Recipients of the alerts have a means of responding to the allegations upon them by initiating an appeal, for $35, to have the CCI begin a review procedure.[9]  Nonetheless, the CCI believes there will be very few appeals as the alert system is meant to thwart the infringement early on without interrupting the subscriber’s Internet use patterns.[10]

The CCI’s Executive Director, Jill Lesser, affirms that this program will be focused on educating the public rather than assume the role of a disciplinary agency.[11]  It is believed that an abundant amount of infringement takes place because subscribers do not understand the protections and restrictions of copyright law.  Lesser further explains that the CAS is “approaching on the theory that most consumers want to do the right thing and will do the right thing if they understand.”[12] The CCI confirms that its place is not to terminate anyone’s Internet access; the CCI provides a structured program for ISPs and content owners to work together to enforce their respective copyright policies and rights.[13]

While the initiatives taken by the industry are commendable in comparison to its prior program in the early 2000’s, where it filed some 35,000 lawsuits against music consumers, the question still lingers whether the CAS will work.[14]  A much discussed possible shortcoming in the program is the accuracy of infringer identifications.[15]  In response, the program is being carefully scrutinized and developed by content owner representatives who will develop written methodologies for identifying instances of P2P online infringement.  Impartial technical experts will also conduct subsequent ongoing reviews of those methodologies.[16]  The reviews will be conducted “with the goal of ensuring and maintaining confidence on the part of the content owner representatives, the participating ISPs, and the public in the accuracy and security of the methodologies.”[17]

Although the possibility of the CAS causing ISPs to aggressively search for infringers and make wrongful accusations would be detrimental to the ISPs relationship with its customer and undoubtedly infringe on the customer’s peaceable enjoyment of their internet service, the CAS is the most promising non- judicial means of copyright enforcement.  The CAS takes all of the players in the world of P2P file sharing into consideration and this inclusiveness is what will drive the program’s success rate.  Ultimately, CCI’s dedication to maintaining a fair and transparent program will be proven by its ability to circumvent consumer dissidence about CAS tactics and gain more industry participants, particularly ISPs.



[1] Jill Lesser, The Copyright Alert System: Moving to Implementation, Center for Copyright Information (Oct. 18, 2012), http://www.copyrightinformation.org/node/709; Cyrus Farivar, “Six Strikes” System Goes Live this Fall, Appeals to Cost $35, ars technica (Oct. 18, 2012, 12:02 PM), http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/10/six-strikes-system-goes-live-this-fall-appeals-to-cost-35/.

[2] Copyright Alert System (CAS), Center for Copyright Information http://www.copyrightinformation.org/alerts (last visited Nov. 11, 2012) [hereinafter CAS].

[3] Motion Picture Association of America, http://www.mpaa.org (last visited Dec. 21, 2012).

[4] Recording Industry Association of America, http://www.riaa.com (last visited Dec. 21, 2012).

[5] What is an ISP?, wiseGeek, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-isp.htm (last visited Dec. 21, 2012).

[6] About, Center for Copyright Information, http://www.copyrightinformation.org/about (last visited Nov. 11, 2012).

[7] CAS, supra note 2.

[8] Andrew Couts, Six Strikes and You’re Screwed: What the Upcoming Piracy Crackdown Means for You, Digital Trends (Mar. 29, 2012), http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/six-strikes-and-youre-screwed-what-the-upcoming-piracy-crackdown-means-for-you/.

[9] Id.

[10] Farivar, supra note 1.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Erika Morphy, 6-Strike Copyright Warning System: Can You Hear Us Now?, ECT News Network (Sept. 13, 2012, 11:55 AM),  http://www.ectnews.com/story/76152.html.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id. 

Author: Cameryn Hinton

Cameryn Hinton is a Senior Editor with the Journal. She is a New Jersey native and received her Bachelor's of Science degree in Business & Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology. Cameryn aspires to specialize in Intellectual Property law and practice Corporate Law. She has held internships with: Suffolk County District Courts; Missing Link Music, a music publisher and catalog administrator; and Verizon, as a legal intern supporting the Corporate Services Group. Cameryn also served as the Intellectual Property extern for Rutgers' Office of Technology Commercialization in which she assisted Licensing Directors and General Counsel with Rutgers' technology transfers. Cameryn is a member of the Black Women in Entertainment Law organization, as well as Rutgers' Entertainment and Sports Law Society.

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