Commentary

'Three Strikes' Program Doesn't Stem Piracy, Study Says

Entertainment industry officials who hope that the recently launched “six strikes” program will end online piracy could be in for a rude awakening. That's the main takeaway from a report issued earlier this month by academics from the University of Delaware and Universite de Rennes.

The researchers examined France's 2009 “three strikes” law, which aimed to curb online piracy on peer-to-peer networks. That law involves sending two warning notices to people suspected of sharing files, followed by some sort of sanction; originally, the French authorities planned to disconnect file-sharers, but reportedly nixed that idea last year.

The French system has had “no substantial deterrent effect,” according to the new report, which was based on a survey of 2,000 Web users. What's more, as users grow more sophisticated about piracy, they “substitute away from monitored P2P networks and illegally access content through unmonitored channels,” according to the report.

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“Our econometric results indicate that the ... law has not deterred individuals from engaging in digital piracy and that it did not reduce the intensity of illegal activity of those who did engage in piracy,” the study's authors write.

In the U.S., a group of Internet service providers recently launched a “six strikes” campaign, in hopes of stopping online piracy on peer-to-peer networks. Notably, that program doesn't address piracy on cyberlockers.

The "Copyright Alert System" calls for ISPs to penalize suspected infringers with a series of escalating sanctions. Initially, the participating ISPs -- AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon -- will issue warning letters. If users ignore the letters, they could be required to visit education sites. Eventually ISPs could throttle some of those users -- although some broadband providers have said they don't intend to do so.

The Recording Industry Association of America announced plans for some sort of a graduated sanction system back in 2008, when it promised to end a five-year litigation campaign that resulted in lawsuits against thousands of individuals. Many of the people who were sued paid four-figure settlements -- which, although hefty for individual consumers, didn't begin to cover the RIAA's costs of litigation.
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