A group of Internet service providers this week is launching the so-called "six strikes" program, aimed at curbing piracy on peer-to-peer networks.
The new "Copyright Alert System" calls for ISPs to penalize suspected infringers with a series of escalating sanctions. Participating ISPs, including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, intend to start off by sending warning letters. Users who ignore them -- or who are suspected of doing so -- could then have to visit education sites. Eventually ISPs could throttle some of those users, though some have said they have no intention of doing so.
Jill Lesser, executive director of the Center for Copyright Information (which is overseeing the initiative), blogs that the warnings "are meant to educate rather than punish." She says the warning letters will direct users to legal alternatives. People who receive notices will be able to challenge them, but doing so will cost $35.
The Recording Industry Association of America announced plans for the initiative back in 2008, when it said it would stop a five-year litigation campaign that resulted in lawsuits against thousands of individual users. Many of the individuals who were sued paid four-figure settlements; the two users who took their cases to trial were each found liable and hit with eye-popping six-figure verdicts.
But the venture ended up costing the RIAA far more money than the group garnered in settlements -- not to mention the bad publicity. Besides, for all the money spent on legal fees, the initiative didn't make a dent in online piracy.
Ironically, now that the new "six strikes" system is launching, peer-to-peer file sharing is on the decline. A report issued today by the NPD Group says that the volume of music downloaded from peer-to-peer services in 2012 was down 26% from the year before.
NPD also reported that the volume of music downloads from digital lockers dropped 26%.
At the same time, worldwide music sales rose 0.3% last year, according to the industry group IFPI. That marks the first increase in revenue since 1999. Digital revenue was up 9%, with downloads, subscription services and ad-supported streams all increasing.