Will the Upcoming Six Strikes Scheme Stop Piracy?

The much-discussed U.S. six strikes anti-piracy scheme is expected to go live within a month. A reputable source told TorrentFreak that February 18 has been selected as the provisional launch date, but CCI denies this. In the meantime we'll take a look at the expected effectiveness of the copyright alerts system. Will it be able to turn pirates into legitimate customers or will it drive people to VPNs and other means of sharing?

copyright alertsIn a few weeks the MPAA, RIAA and five major U.S. Internet providers will start to warn BitTorrent pirates.

The parties founded the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) and agreed on a system through which copyright infringers are told that their behavior is unacceptable. After five or six warnings ISPs will then take a variety of repressive measures.

This week TorrentFreak learned from a source close to CCI that the system is currently scheduled to launch on February 18. However, a spokesperson for the copyright alerts system denies that there is a hard launch date at the moment, and stated that they are “still working towards implementation.”

Exact launch date or not, it appears that after more than a year of delays the copyright alerts will soon go live. The question remains, however, if the plan will be an effective tool to decrease piracy.

The answer to this question is not an easy one to arrive at, but it’s evident that not all copyright infringers are at risk of being caught.

First it has to be noted that the copyright alerts only target a subgroup of online pirates, namely BitTorrent users. The millions of users of file-hosting services, Usenet and streaming sites are not going to be affected.

Needless to say, piracy on these services is likely to increase rather than decrease.

And that’s just half of the story. Even those who keep using BitTorrent can avoid the warnings by signing up for one of many anonymizer services.

BitTorrent proxies and VPN services are the preferred way for people to remain anonymous while downloading. These services replace a user’s home IP-address with one provided by the proxy service, making it impossible for tracking companies to identify who is doing the file-sharing.

In the U.S. 16% of all file-sharers already hide their IP-address, and this is likely to increase when the copyright alert system goes live.

The above doesn’t mean 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.

Of course this is not news to the copyright holders or the ISPs.

When CCI Executive Director Jill Lesser was confronted with these circumvention options she stressed that the main purpose of the alerts is to educate the public. The participating parties realize that determined individuals can circumvent the system by using a VPN or switching to other means of file-sharing.

“Yes, there are ways around it, and yes there are other ways to pirate,” Lesser previously said, adding that these hardcore pirates are not the target of the system.

How big the real target group is will become apparent in the months to come, when the first statistics on U.S. BitTorrent usage are published after the six strikes come in.

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