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Copyright Violators May Lose Internet Privileges Under New Initiative

Major Internet Service Providers and the Center for Copyright Information announced the plan on Monday.

Attention copyright violators: The Center for Copyright Information announced on Monday that (after lengthy delays) a new system is being rolled out that will alert consumers if their Internet Service Provider (ISP) suspects them of illegal downloading. The Copyright Alert System (CAS) was first introduced in 2011, but after a tug-of-war between the entertainment industry and service providers (among others) it took years to be finalized.

Under the CAS, consumers will at first receive an "educational" alert if their ISP suspects they are violating copyright laws. The "alerts" will progress to "mitigation measures" if a user continues to infringe on copyright. These measures include temporary reductions of the subscriber's Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter, or other measures (as specified in published policies) that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter, the Center said.

"As with any innovative system, the process of building the CAS has taken time," the Center said in a blog post. "We appreciate the collaborative engagement from the many organizations, companies and professionals involved in CCI who helped advise us along the way. CCI and its partners have worked hard to meet our goal of implementing a system that educates consumers about copyright and P2P networks, encourages the use of legal alternatives, and safeguards customer privacy."

Predictably, not everyone—including presumably law-abiding citizens—is so excited about the new policy. Corynne McSherry, a lawyer and Intellectual Property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Guardian she thinks the policy will be used to unnecessarily snoop on and intimidate people without allowing them to have equal access to information against them. "That kind of backroom deal is not appropriate. It's certainly not how we should be doing copyright policy," she told the newspaper. "And that's what this is, it's a private copyright system and it doesn't have the protections and balances that the public copyright system has." Other obvious problems with the policy, the Guardian points out, come if users share IP addresses or if a consumer's wireless network is hacked.

What do you think about the alert system? Will it work? Or is it an overreach?

[Picture by Flickr user Horia Varlan]