Together with four other internet providers in the United States, Time Warner Cable is sending copyright alerts to customers who use BitTorrent to pirate movies, TV-shows and music. The goal of the “six strikes” program is to inform subscribers that their connection are being used to infringe copyrights while pointing them towards legal alternatives. However, Time Warner Cable is going one step further by warning users about the dangers of P2P software including identity theft, spyware, viruses and unsolicited access to porn.
After years of negotiating and planning the long-awaited U.S. “six strikes” system finally went live in February.
Thus far the number of alerts being sent out under the program appears to be minimal. We previously received a copy of a warning email sent out by Comcast, but today we can add time Time Warner Cable to the list.
The Copyright Alert System’s main goal is to educate the public. People should be informed that their connection is being used to share copyrighted material without permission, and told where they can find legal alternatives. Interestingly, Time Warner Cable is focusing on a different form of education in their copyright alert email.
Before even mentioning legal alternatives, the Internet provider confronts the recipient with the supposed dangers of P2P. Their answer to the question of whether P2P software imposes risks is an unequivocal ‘yes’.
“Yes, P2P programs can pose dangers to your computer and our network,” the email starts.
“A computer can become accessible to a P2P network for an unlimited period of time after a P2P program is downloaded. You may not even be aware that such a program is on your computer as a child or visitor to your home could have downloaded it. Therefore, it is important that you inspect your computer for P2P programs and ensure that you are not either intentionally or inadvertently making copyrighted works available for uploading by others.”
The first part above is not that problematic. File-sharing software can indeed run automatically with each start-up and people may want to disable that functionality when they’re not aware of it. But after this intro (we’ll ignore the fact that “uploading by others” should actually be “downloading by others”) the apparent dangers of P2P get a lot worse.
“These programs allow any anonymous person on the Internet to look at your computer files and copy them for themselves. This could lead to unwelcome activity, such as identity theft. Also, the programs, which use large amounts of memory, can interfere with the functioning of your computer by destabilizing your operating system, leading to general sluggishness at boot up and during operation. Also, P2P programs can contain spyware, adware, malware, viruses and pornography.”
In just three sentences the email dumps a pile of doom and gloom on the recipient that’s misleading to say the least. The Copyright Alert System pretty much exclusively targets BitTorrent transfers, while the above applied to applications that use shared folders such as the now defunct LimeWire.
BitTorrent clients only share files that people have downloaded or added themselves, so there is no possibility for anonymous persons to copy other files on people’s computers. We’re also not aware of any mainstream BitTorrent software that destabilizes the operating system, or contains spyware, viruses and pornography.
While we have to assume that Time Warner Cable included the note with the best intentions, most of the language that’s used clearly doesn’t apply to BitTorrent. But perhaps one of the goals is to make file-sharing look more dangerous than it is in reality? That talking point certainly is trending at various anti-piracy groups.
Further down in the “copyright alert” Time Warner Cable lists the name of the file that was allegedly shared without permission, together with other data including an IP-address. The email also lists places where people can download movies and music legally, and informs them that after several of these notices their Internet browsing may be temporarily restricted.
The full email is shown below. If you have received one yourself from Time Warner Cable or any other Internet provider, please let us know at the usual address.
Update: The Center for Copyright Information accidentally made the legal alternatives unfindable.
Dear XXXXX (Primary Account Holder),
We have been notified that copyrighted content may have been shared using your internet connection without permission of the copyright owner.
What does that mean?
Content owners (artists, moviemakers, authors) and their representatives routinely monitor peer-2-peer networks to see if their content (like music, movies, and TV shows) is shared without their permission (without it being paid for). If they notice somebody sharing their content without their permission through a Time Warner Cable account they let us know.
As the primary account holder, you are responsible for making sure your account is not used for copyright infringement. Please note that we don’t know which computer or device may be the one to have triggered the notification; it could be any device using your account.
Are there dangers associated with using peer-to-peer (“P2P”) networks?
Yes, P2P program can pose dangers to your computer and our network. A computer can become accessible to a P2P network for an unlimited period of time after a P2P program is downloaded. You may not even be aware that such a program is on your computer as a child or visitor to your home could have downloaded it. Therefore, it is important that you inspect your computer for P2P programs and ensure that you are not either intentionally or inadvertently making copyrighted works available for uploading by others. These programs allow any anonymous person on the Internet to look at your computer files and copy them for themselves. This could lead to unwelcome activity, such as identity theft. Also, the programs, which use large amounts of memory, can interfere with the functioning of your computer by destabilizing your operating system, leading to general sluggishness at boot up and during operation. Also, P2P programs can contain spyware, adware, malware, viruses and pornography. Click here for more information about the various risks: http://onguardonline.gov/p2p
What was shared and when?
File Name: Justin Bieber – As Long As You Love Me (Feat. Big Sean) [Single] - Sebastian[Ub3r]
Shared: Jun 12 2013 4:51PM
IP Address: xx.xx.xxx.xx
Did you give them my personal information?
We have not shared any of your personal information with the content owner to help them find the files. The content owner simply provides us with an IP address and we contact you directly on their behalf.
Alright, so what do I need to do?
·If you have been downloading or sharing content illegally please stop doing so immediately.
·Make sure that everyone who uses your internet connection knows that you received this alert and advise them to use only legal sources for music, television and movie content (here are some examples of legal sources). http://www.copyrightinformation.org/a-better-way-to-find-movies-tv-music/, http://www.timewarnercable.com/en/residential-home/tv/premiums.html
·Secure your home wireless network so that nobody who is unauthorized to use it is able to do so.(learn more here). http://onguardonline.gov/articles/0013-securing-your-wireless-network
Hopefully this is the last time we contact you. If a content owner does not identify further instances of alleged copyright infringement then this will be your last notice.
And what if this continues to happen?
Sharing content without the owner’s permission is a violation of U.S. copyright laws, and our acceptable use policy. Under the Copyright Alert System (for more on CAS click here: http://www.copyrightinformation.org/alerts, further instances of infringement using your account may result in our undertaking measures that will temporarily affect your internet experience. The range of actions may include redirection to a landing page for a period or until you contact Time Warner Cable.
We will, of course, provide you with advance notice prior to taking any such steps. We will also offer you the ability to challenge the content owner’s notices through an independent party prior to any service alterations. You may wish to preserve records or information that could be used to demonstrate that the activity in question was non-infringing.
I still have questions about this notice, where can I go?
For additional information about this notice, learn how you can prevent further notices, and understand more about the Copyright Alert System, please visit the Center for Copyright Information – Copyright Alert System website at http://www.copyrightinformation.org/alerts.
Thank you for subscribing to Time Warner Cable’s high speed data service. We look forward to having you as a customer for years to come.