A Closer Watch on Illegal Downloads in the USA: Big Brother is Watching

March 20, 2013


The six-strikes system designed to deter illegal file downloads has been put into place by Verizon Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc., AT&T and Comcast. The new system, as many had predicted, has some significant flaws in it that have been written about already in various media venues. What does it mean for users? This remains to be seen.

The System

As previous published, the system involves giving users who are accused of copyright infringement a series of six warnings, after which various penalizing actions may be taken by the ISP. Each ISP has a different version of how the program will be implemented and the penalties assessed, so your experience may vary, depending upon who provides your Internet access.

The Logistics

Ars Technica gives information on the program in a new article. Their article also contains copies of alerts 1, 2, 4 and 5 from Comcast. According to the article, users have the option of filing an appeal—for $35—if they believe that they’ve been falsely accused of infringing upon someone’s copyright.

The program is funded by a group called the Center for Copyright Information. There are five ISPs that make up this group and the well-known industry groups the RIAA and MPAA are both members, as well.

When a suspected instance of copyright infringement is logged, the user will start to receive warnings. These warnings will escalate and may result in the user’s Internet speed being capped. The user could also, depending upon their provider, be asked to call a number and verify that they received the notice, watch an educational video or take other actions.

A representative of Comcast did acknowledge that a VPN connection would prevent Comcast from being able to see any suspected copyright infringement, according to Ars Technica.

The Information

According to the Wall Street Journal, the information about suspected copyright infringements will be provided by the RIAA and the MPAA. Despite this much-vaunted effort against copyright infringement, the article points out that this action is more targeted toward everyday users than it is toward very active Internet pirates.

Currently, the program makes no accommodations for fair use, which may end up with users who are using their downloads for permissible purposes getting slapped with notices. The Ars Technica article also points out that Comcast is delivering the notices via Comcast’s own email system, which many users may not even check.

VPN services and USENET access over SSL, going by the information provided in the Ars Technica article, may prevent users from being spied upon by the RIAA and MPAA.

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