Internet providers participating in the six-strikes scheme have made it clear from the start that under the program no subscriber will be permanently disconnected from the Internet. The Copyright Alerts being sent out by AT&T, however, inform accused pirates that in some cases it is company policy to terminate services to repeat infringers. Under what circumstances these disconnections take place remains a mystery for now.
After years of negotiating and planning the long-awaited U.S. “six-strikes” system finally went live in February.
The Copyright Alert System’s main goal is to educate the public. That is, informing people that their connection is being used to share copyrighted material without permission, and pointing them to legal alternatives.
While repeat infringers face so-called mitigation measures, the copyright holders and ISPs have made it very clear that no one will permanently lose their Internet access. Nevertheless, AT&T is currently using its Copyright Alert emails to warn accused pirates that account termination is an option.
TorrentFreak obtained a copy of AT&T’s Copyright Alert (posted in full below) which warns that those who share copyrighted files may lose their account. Worryingly, this threat comes before the official mitigation measures are mentioned.
“Using your Internet service to infringe copyrights is illegal and a violation of the AT&T Internet Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy, which apply to all users of your account, and could result in mitigation measures including limitation of Internet access or even suspension or termination,” AT&T writes.
The sentence above points to a footnote clarifying that a termination is AT&T policy as required by the DMCA.
“Pursuant to Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, AT&T’s policy is to terminate services to repeat infringers under appropriate circumstances,” the footnote reads.
The key part here is “appropriate circumstances,” which the Internet provider doesn’t elaborate on.
Several years ago AT&T stated that it would only disconnect repeat infringers if the company was ordered to do so by a court, unlike other service providers such as YouTube and many file-hosting services who terminate accounts on their own.
The issue is a gray area, since the termination section of the DMCA is not clear on whether service providers have to terminate accounts themselves, or if a court order is required.
TorrentFreak contacted AT&T to ask which circumstances could expose a subscriber to losing his or her Internet access but we have yet to receive a response.
If it wanted to, AT&T could certainly identify persistent pirates as the six-strikes scheme requires the company to keep a database of infringing accounts. The scheme further requires ISPs to save this information in case the MPAA, RIAA or other copyright holders decide they need to access it.
So, it is not unthinkable that account terminations could follow, although this would require the copyright holders to obtain a court order or subpoena.
While AT&T’s “alert” doesn’t cross any lines, technically speaking, for the general public the mention of possible account terminations can be rather confusing. It would have been more appropriate to explain under what circumstances subscribers may lose Internet access, while making clear that this is unrelated to the alert they received.
A redacted copy of the Copyright Alert being sent out by AT&T is detailed below.
Copyright Infringement Alert
Dear (Primary Account Holder),
We are sending you this alert as part of our participation in the Copyright Alert Program — an industry-wide initiative intended to help users understand their rights and responsibilities in the distribution of copyrighted content online.
Digital content owners routinely monitor file-sharing networks to determine if copyrighted movies and music are being distributed illegally over the Internet. Through the Copyright Alert System, we’ve recently received a notice from a movie studio, record company, television studio or other company that owns copyrighted material that your AT&T Internet account was used in connection with possible infringement of their copyright protected materials.
A copy of the original notice can be found at att.com/copyright-infringement, but summary information is available at the end of this email.
What is Copyright Infringement?
Copyright protection gives creators of original intellectual property (such as music, movies, videos, books, artwork, and images) the exclusive right to that work — including control over reproduction, distribution, adaptation, performance, or financial benefit. If you or any other user(s) of your account copy, reproduce, adapt, or distribute copyrighted material without authorization, you are infringing those rights.
Using your Internet service to infringe copyrights is illegal and a violation of the AT&T Internet Terms of Service (TOS) and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which apply to all users of your account, and could result in mitigation measures including limitation of Internet access or even suspension or termination.*
How Does this Affect Me?
Through the Copyright Alert Program, users are given an opportunity to understand and change behavior that may be resulting in Copyright Alerts. However, if they receive multiple Copyright Alerts, they may encounter corrective action — or mitigation measures — which may limit or inhibit Internet access.
No action will be taken at this point and we’ll let you know when mitigation measures are pending, should any be necessary. At that point, if you wish, you may request an Independent Review which provides an opportunity to challenge this or any other Copyright Alert before any mitigation measure is implemented. (Be sure to preserve any records or information that could be used to show that the activity was non-infringing.)
Other Helpful Information
It is possible that the infringement notice is the result of activity through a peer-to-peer (P2P) program that may be on your computer. These programs can pose issues, so it is important for you to understand what they are and the risks of using them.
You can find information on P2P programs and how to remove them, through the Center for Copyright Information at www.copyrightinformation.org
There are many ways to legally enjoy protected television programs, movies, and music. You can find information on these methods at www.copyrightinformation.org/a-better-way-to-find-movies-tv-music/
What Do I Need to Do?
• Please visit att.com/copyright-infringement to learn more about copyrights, our policies, and the Copyright Alert System.
• Visit the Center for Copyright Information website at copyrightinformation.org for additional information on the industry-wide Copyright Alert Program, as well as information on Peer-to-Peer programs, and more.
• Check to make sure that the activity of all users of your account is in compliance with copyright laws, the AT&T Internet Terms of Service, and Acceptable Use Policy.
Taking the above action should help you to resolve the issue.
Your AT&T Internet Service Customer Care Team
*Pursuant to Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, AT&T’s policy is to terminate services to repeat infringers under appropriate circumstances.
Important Note: This email contains links to various websites. You may copy and paste the URL(s) into your browser rather than clicking directly on the link.
For a copy of the original notice, please go to att.com/copyright-infringement
Notice ID: XXXXXX
Content Owner: MPAA Search and Notify
Content Title: EXPENDABLES 2, THE
File Name: The.Expendables.2.2012.iNTERNAL.720p.BluRay.x264-AVSHD [PublicHD]
IP Address: XXXXXX
File Type: P2P