Comcast Wants to Monitor and Convert Pirating Subscribers

In collaboration with Hollywood, Comcast is reportedly working on a new anti-piracy project in addition to the current six-strikes scheme. Under the new plan ISPs will monitor subscribers' Internet traffic and present pirates with legal alternatives through popups. The new system is still in the development phase and sources say it will co-exist with the existing copyright alert system.

comcastComcast is set to step up its anti-piracy efforts with a new plan that will point pirating subscribers to legal alternatives.

The U.S. Internet provider is working on a trial of the new technology in collaboration with major movie and TV-studios and is hoping to get other ISPs on board as well, Variety reports.

While details are scarce at this point, sources say that the new system will monitor subscriber accounts for unauthorized downloads. When a pirated download is spotted, users will receive a popup notification referring them to legal alternatives.

The legal alternatives could be Comcast’s own offerings, but also third-party services such as Amazon and Netflix.

There is currently no indication that unauthorized downloads will be stopped, although this is a possibility. Just last month we reported on a patent obtained by AT&T which would allow for such an elaborate anti-piracy system.

An alternative option would be for a third-party company to monitor unauthorized downloads. This is possible and would not require active monitoring from the Internet provider. However, this would mean that the new plan can only target peer-to-peer networks and not central file-hosting sites or streaming services.

If Comcast goes for the latter then the new plan will be an extension of the six-strikes anti-piracy system that launched in February. The six-strikes scheme, a collaboration between the MPAA, RIAA and five major Internet providers, sends alerts to subscribers who are caught sharing copyrighted works online and ultimately punishes repeat offenders.

The new “pirate conversion” scheme will not replace the current six-strikes system, which recently received praise from the Obama administration.

The idea of referring “pirates” to legitimate content is not new. Several file-hosting services, including Mediafire, are already scanning the publicly shared files of their users to replace them with “buy now” links when they are distributed without permission.

The news of Comcast’s plan nevertheless comes as surprise for multiple reasons. For one, TorrentFreak has learned from sources close to the Copyright Alert System that Internet providers have become very reluctant to engage in anti-piracy measures following the SOPA revolt last year. This was one of the main reason why the six-strikes plan was delayed for more than a year.

Secondly, during a time where the public is growing increasingly skeptical of online surveillance, the new anti-piracy plan is bound to result in a healthy backlash. That said, there is also a lot to gain for Comcast, which owns NBC Universal and is one of the largest cable television providers.

If Comcast goes ahead with these plans it will be interesting to see who else will participate and how the technology will work. TorrentFreak has sent out some inquiries to learn more about Comcast’s plans and we hope to provide an update in due course.

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