Major Internet service providers could move forward as early as July with a controversial plan to police networks for unlawful file-sharing, CNET reports.
The plan, announced last year, calls for AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and other ISPs to send a series of warnings to users who allegedly use peer-to-peer networks to upload or download copyrighted files. If the warnings prove ineffective, the ISPs will institute "mitigation measures," ranging from slowing down users' service to disconnecting them.
CNET reports that the ISPs have been building systems to implement the graduated response. Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, reportedly said that ISPs needed to create a system that will allow them to "keep track of repeat infringers, so they know that this is the first notice or the third notice."
Subscribers will be able to contest the allegations, but critics question the procedures. One bone of contention is that mounting a challenge could cost $35; another is that users don't have guarantees that the decision-makers will be fair.
Still, in some ways the program appears less heavy-handed than the Recording Industry Association of America's last attempt at squelching piracy -- suing users in federal court. That initiative started in 2003 and resulted in more than 30,000 court cases, but didn't appear to curb unlawful file-sharing. It also resulted in massive damage awards against two individual defendants -- Jammie Thomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum. (The exact amount they will end up paying isn't clear, but could be quite high. At one point, a jury ordered Thomas-Rasset to pay $1.92 million, and a different jury ordered Tenenbaum to pay $675,000.)
Despite the effort that's going into this new program, it's not clear that ISPs can stop piracy all that easily. Since 2008, when the RIAA first said it would work with ISPs to develop sanctions for suspected copyright infringers, much has changed. Most importantly, piracy on peer-to-peer networks appears to have decreased; at the same time, piracy on digital locker services appears to have gone up. The new program, however, appears aimed at peer-to-peer sharers.