Soon the file-sharing habits of millions of BitTorrent users in the United States will be monitored as part of an agreement between the MPAA, RIAA, and all the major ISPs. Those caught sharing copyright works will receive several warning messages and will be punished if they continue to infringe. However, it now appears that the much-discussed July start date will have to wait until later in the year as the parties involved may fail to meet the provisional deadline.
In the coming months the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) will start to track down ‘pirates’ as part of an agreement all major U.S. Internet providers struck with the MPAA and RIAA.
The parties agreed on a system through which copyright infringers are warned that their behavior is unacceptable. After six warnings ISPs may then take a variety of repressive measures, which include slowing down offenders’ connections and temporary disconnections.
The plan was announced under the name ‘Copyright Alerts‘ in July last year and the first ISPs were expected to send out the first warnings before the end of 2011. But this deadline passed silently and as things stand now it looks like the July 1, 2012 deadline is not going to be met by all ISPs either.
TorrentFreak asked the CCI about the upcoming target date, and their response suggests that things may take longer than expected.
“The dates mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) are not hard deadlines but were intended to keep us on track to have the Copyright Alert System up and running as quickly as possible and in the most consumer friendly manner possible,” a spokesperson told us.
“We do not intend to launch until we are confident that the program is consumer friendly and able to be implemented in a manner consistent with all of the goals of the MOU. We expect our implementation to begin later this year.”
In other words, it’s taking more time than expected. That said, the CCI did inform us that they have finally selected a third-party company that will be responsible for monitoring BitTorrent swarms. However, the name of the firm remains a secret for now.
“The technology partner we have identified and begun working with is an independent and impartial expert and we expect to have an announcement about the independent expert shortly,” TorrentFreak was told.
As described in the agreement, this independent “technology partner” will first be tested by yet another independent expert to see if their data collection methods stand up to scrutiny. This is a possible reason for the “delay” but there are many more.
At their end the internet providers all have to create a system that allows them to keep track of the warnings. To ensure the privacy of subscribers, this database of alleged pirates is not stored centrally.
Hoping to find out more about what type of punishments ISPs have planned and their views on the agreement, we contacted several of them.
Verizon was quick to respond but didn’t want to provide any details on the planned punishments. The ISP did say that they believe the voluntary agreement is the right solution for the piracy problem.
“Verizon has always said that copyright infringement is wrong and through this voluntary consumer friendly system, we believe we can educate our consumers and offer them access to legal alternatives,” the company told TorrentFreak.
“We believe this program offers the best approach to the problem of illegal file sharing and, importantly, is one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers. It also provides a mechanism for helping people to find many great sources of legal content.”
Other Internet providers contacted by TorrentFreak, including Comcast and AT&T, did not respond to repeated inquiries about the BitTorrent crackdown.
The CCI, however, ensured TorrentFreak that none of the ISPs has plans to terminate the accounts of subscribers. Temporary disconnections remain as one of the possible punishments. Which measures the various ISPs will choose remains a mystery for now. We’ll publish more on this and other details of the scheme in the near future.