When I sit in front of my computer, it’s a wonder I get anything accomplished. There are seemingly millions of hours of TV shows, movies, music, and cat videos, all of them staggeringly easy to find, download, and share.
But where did all of this content come from? Sure, some of it was home made, but what about the professional stuff? When I stream an episode of “The Americans” online, is it coming directly from FX or is it a pirated copy? Or what about when I download a song? Is the band getting paid? Am I using it in an authorized manner?
In an effort to answer these questions and educate Internet users about their digital media options, the Center for Copyright Information launched the Copyright Alert System yesterday. This system is designed to alert users to possible infringing activities, help users figure out where to find legal content, and advise them how to avoid accidentally downloading unauthorized copies of copyrighted works.
The Copyright Alert System works like this: copyright owners and their agents join peer-to-peer networks looking for their works being made available. If an owner observes possible copyright infringement of works, a notice is sent, which includes the date, time, and title of the copyrighted material, and the IP address of the alleged infringer’s Internet account, to the participating Internet Service Provider, or ISP. The ISP matches the IP address with a customer’s account and then forwards an alert to the customer that explains what the copyright owner has discovered. The ISP does not share any information about the identity of its customer with the copyright holder. A user can receive up to six alerts, with increasing levels of acknowledgement designed to get the user’s attention. Users who feel they’ve been notified in error can appeal.
These alerts are meant to educate – not punish. That’s why in addition to creating the Copyright Alert System, the Center for Copyright Information also offers myriad resources and information on how to legally get your favorite TV shows, movies, and music online.
It’s important to note that with this program, account termination or permanent loss of Internet access is never a consequence. Also, the Copyright Alert System does not monitor Internet traffic; your ISP is not spying on you. Identification is done by individual content owners observing peer-to-peer networks only.
We at NCTA understand the value and importance of great original content. Cable channels like HBO, AMC, and FX work hard and risk big to produce the best television programming available. Cable ISPs value their customer relationships and want to promote an open and safe Internet experience. In that vein, we view yesterday’s announcement as a constructive step forward in our collective effort to promote the enjoyment of high-quality, digital media and to preserve, and support the hard-working, creative individuals who make the TV, movies, and music we love.