ISPs To Begin Punishing BitTorrent Pirates This Summer

This July major US Internet service providers will start assisting copyright holders in their fight against online copyright infringement. Major ISPs including Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable will begin fulfilling their obligations under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed last year, which will see the providers send out copyright infringement warnings to their millions of customers.

After years of painful negotiations, last June it was revealed that the RIAA, MPAA and some of the United States’ largest Internet service providers had finally come to an agreement on action against unauthorized online sharing of copyright works.

The deal involves content owners, such as recording labels and movie studios, monitoring peer-to-peer networks including BitTorrent for copyright infringements and reporting instances to Internet service providers. The ISPs have agreed to take steps to “educate” allegedly infringing customers through an escalating system of notices, warnings, and other measures.

While it was big news at the time and a very hot issue, since mid-2011 very little has been reported on the progress of the deal. The initial announcement said that ISPs would start implementing the alert system by the end of last year, but this obviously didn’t happen.

However, according to the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the organization responsible for administering the scheme, all parties are on target to initiate the programs by July 12th this year.

“The members of the coalition are making significant progress at developing a cooperative system to educate consumers and deter copyright theft,” a spokesperson told TorrentFreak.

“CCI is working to implement what is an unprecedented effort and is proceeding on pace with the MOU. We will have announcements in the near future that will include the naming of the [anti-piracy monitoring] partner and details on how CCI and the technology partner will work together.”

According to CNET this positive outlook was confirmed by RIAA CEO Cary Sherman.

During the Association of American Publishers’ annual meeting yesterday, Sherman reportedly announced that ‘most’ of the major ISPs involved in the so-called “graduated response” (such as Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable)

Sherman said that the process hadn’t been easy, with each ISP having to establish their own database to keep track of repeat infringers, the very people whose habits the studios hope to change. So come July, what changes should customers of the major ISPs expect?

Those not engaging in file-sharing on P2P networks or those who use BitTorrent over a VPN or proxy will probably notice very little (cyberlocker sharing is not covered), apart from ultimately having to help finance the scheme through their ISP bills.

For those who choose to download and share popular music from EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner, or do likewise with movies owned by Disney, Sony, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner, things will change.

Under a White House and lawmaker supported “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) published last July, ISPs will send advisories to alleged copyright-infringing customers.

The first so-called ‘Initial Educational Steps’ will advise customers that copyright infringement is illegal and a breach of the ISP’s terms of service, that legal alternatives are available, and that continuing to infringe may have consequences including account suspension or termination.

The Acknowledgment Step, reached when an Internet subscriber is accused of additional infringements by rights holders, will see ISPs send Copyright Alerts requiring acknowledgment of receipt from account holders along with a pledge to end infringing activity from the account.

Should several attempts at ‘educating’ a subscriber fail, ISPs will be able to send a Mitigation Measure Copyright Alert which again requires customer acknowledgment. It will advise that a customer has received prior warnings and as per the ISPs terms of service, a ‘Mitigation Measure’ will now be applied to the account.

Mitigation measures can include throttling of upload or download speeds, a temporary reduction in service quality to one step above dial-up, redirection to a landing page so that the customer can be further ‘educated’, or even account suspension. No ISP has yet agreed to the latter and no ISP is allowed to disable VOIP, email, security, or TV services.

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