This summer, many who routinely download movies and music without paying will be in for a rude awakening... maybe. Or, that awakening may turn out to be little more than a series of toothless warnings.
In a matter of weeks, the Center For Copyright Information (CCI) will begin enforcing a new antipiracy policy cooked up in concert with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Under the new system, major ISPs in the United States will send warnings to people who use peer-to-peer file-sharing networks to download content illegally. But it appears that any permanent sanctions against users by ISPs are not planned.
Under the new system, ISPs will get a heads-up from the MPAA or RIAA that a user on their network is suspected of piracy. From there, the provider will contact the user directly, let that person know that he or she is in violation of the ISP's policies, and point out that piracy is bad.
"Alerts will be non-punitive and progressive in nature," reads the CCI's website. "Successive alerts will reinforce the seriousness of the copyright infringement and inform the recipient how to address the activity that is precipitating the alerts."
After six warnings, the provider may take punitive action, such as limiting Internet access for repeat offenders. Users won't be permantly booted offline, but temporary restrictions and connection throttling are apparently on the table.
On its face, this scheme looks like SOPA 2.0. The controversial antipiracy legislation championed by Hollywood and big content companies didn't pan out, but this new system features similar aims being reached with different tactics. Rather than shutting off websites, it shuts off users. Or so it appears.
The scheme may actually be a bit more of a scare tactic than initially thought. Not only is permanent account suspension not an option, but apparently users who exceed six warnings will be deemed "unreachable" and stop receiving messages, according to TorrentFreak.
In other words, the system is essentially toothless. It may result in some throttled connections, but those who have the most insatiable appetites for pirated content won't have much to worry about beyond that. More than anything, it's designed "to educate consumers," the CCI says.
The MPAA and RIAA managed to get all of the major ISPs in the United States on board with this initiative, a fact that is vital to its effectiveness. Still, the service providers probably don't want to stir up too much negative publicity by taking harsh punititive actions, especially after the SOPA fiasco.
This is only the newest battleground in the online piracy wars that started ramping up dramatically earlier this year. A day after widespread protests killed SOPA and PIPA, the U.S. government launched an all-out assault on Megaupload, seizing the site's data and arresting founder Kim Dotcom and several of his associates. In the weeks that followed, other file-sharing sites started scaling back their services or shutting down altogether.
From the looks of it, the CCI's alert system likely won't be as aggressive as the MPAA and RIAA had hoped, but it will have to do for now.