After a series of delays, the Center for Copyright Information's "six strikes" anti-piracy scheme has a launch date. Starting on November 28, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner and Verizon will start sending out warnings to users who download copyrighted material without authorization. But don't quit those Torrent networks just yet.
The CCI is a partnership between the Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America, and the major Internet service providers in the U.S. Under the group's Copyright Alert System, Internet users who download unauthorized material will receive a series of messages explaining that it's illegal to do so and encouraging them to stop.
Initial concerns that the system could lead to users being cut off from the Internet appear to be unfounded. It's really about educating (okay, scaring) people rather than punishing them.
"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 mete out penalties, although it's not entirely clear what those would be. Slowing down, or throttling, customers' Internet connections is apparently on the table, but users won't be kicked offline permanently, according to the CCI. The most egregious offenders would be deemed "unreachable" by the program and subsequently ignored, according to TorrentFreak.
From the look of it, the system is largely toothless. While it might not stop hardcore copyright violators, though, receiving a scary-sounding warning from a service provider might be enough to stop casual downloaders in their tracks. If all goes according to the CCI's plan, that may lead to a substantial decrease in copyright infringement overall.
The system will arrive at a pivotal moment in what are often referred to as the Copyright Wars. Earlier this year, big content's fight against piracy began to resemble literal warfare when New Zealand police raided the mansion of Kim Dotcom. The Megaupload founder will stand trial for copyright infringement and related charges next year, but isn't wasting anytime trying to get his latest venture - a music service called Megabox - off the ground.
Dotcom's arrest came within days of another watershed moment in the Copyright Wars. After overwhelming opposition from tech companies and the public, the controversial anti-piracy legislation known as SOPA and PIPA were effectively killed after losing support in the U.S. Congress.
The Copyright Alert System is the latest weapon in the content industry's war on piracy, having failed on the legislative front and gotten nowhere by suing consumers directly. With the CAS, they're taking a decidedly less draconian approach, hoping to scare enough people away from illegal downloading to make a difference. Whatever the results are, they will no doubt help inform the next phase of this battle, which is inevitably on the horizon.