Starting this summer copyright holders will systematically hunt down ‘pirates’ and ISPs will inform account holders that their connections are being abused. It sounds scary, but in reality it’s not much different from what copyright holders are already doing.
The big change now is that there’s a formalized process under the name ‘copyright alerts‘. It basically boils down to a warning system that will notify people when their connection is suspected of being used for illegal file-sharing. After six warnings the ISP may then take a variety of repressive measures, which include disconnecting the offender’s connection temporarily.
The question remains, however, whether the plan will be effective.
While there will be significant numbers of individuals who will not even realize they are being monitored until they get their first warning, others will be more savvy from the start. Somewhere down the road the two groups are likely to converge and begin mulling some of the options available which remove the risk of receiving further warnings.
These users have plenty of options to avoid the warnings.
BitTorrent proxies and VPNs appear to be the preferred way for people to remain anonymous while downloading. As these services replace a user’s home IP-address with one provided by the proxy service, tracking companies won’t be able to identify who is doing the file-sharing meaning that no copyright alerts can be sent.
A recent survey in France, where Internet users can actually lose their connection after three strikes, revealed that only 4% of the polled file-sharers said they stopped pirating. Instead, many users signed up with proxies and VPNs to avoid detection.
TorrentFreak spoke to several owners of VPN services who all report a huge increase in clients in recent years, some of which can be directly linked to news about copyright enforcement efforts. It would therefore come as little surprise if their revenues grew even more after the “six-strikes” system is rolled out in the US.
And there is another type of business that will benefit from the MPAA/ RIAA anti-piracy plan. Since the alerts system only targets P2P file-sharing, which is pretty much limited to BitTorrent in the US, it means that people who use direct download sites won’t be affected.
Over the past several years one-click download sites, or cyberlockers as some call these services, have outgrown even the largest torrent sites by number of daily visitors. As with BitTorrent sites, sites like 4Shared, RapidShare and Hotfile are also used to share copyrighted material.
But despite their ever-increasing user bases, sharing on these sites can’t be tracked by third parties. This means that their users wont receive any strikes, ever. This also means that if BitTorrent users make the switch to using cyberlocker sites to avoid receiving warnings, revenues for these companies will go up.
Similar to one-click download sites, streaming portals are becoming more and more popular. Several streaming portals are indexing links to copyrighted movies and TV-shows and millions of people use these on a daily basis. Again, outsiders can’t legally spy on the users of these sites so they don’t have to be afraid of receiving a copyright alert.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are a range of other options for ‘pirates’ to get their daily fix and bypass the six-strikes system.
We’re not saying that the copyright alert system will have no effect whatsoever, in fact, it may be quite effective in deterring a small percentage of casual ‘pirates’. However, we expect that the overwhelming majority of copyright infringers will simply take measures to avoid being caught, while continuing their downloading habits.