The country’s largest Internet service providers haven’t given up on the idea of becoming copyright cops.

Last July, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and other bandwidth providers announced that they had agreed to adopt policies designed to discourage customers from illegally downloading music, movies and software. Since then, the ISPs have been very quiet about their antipiracy measures.

But during a panel discussion before a gathering of U.S. publishers here today, Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said most of the participating ISPs are on track to begin implementing the program by July 12.

Supporters say this could become the most effective antipiracy program ever. Since ISPs are the Internet’s gatekeepers, the theory is that network providers are in the best position to fight illegal file sharing. CNET broke the news last June that the RIAA and counterparts at the trade group for the big film studios, had managed to get the deal through–with the help of the White House.

Sherman told attendees of the Association of American Publishers’ annual meeting, that planners had always said that setting up an antipiracy program like this could take a year. He told CNET following his panel that the process isn’t as easy as turning on a switch.

“Each ISP has to develop their infrastructure for automating the system,” Sherman said. They need this “for establishing the database so they can keep track of repeat infringers, so they know that this is the first notice or the third notice. Every ISP has to do it differently depending on the architecture of its particular network. Some are nearing completion and others are a little further from completion.”

The program, commonly referred to as “graduated response,” requires that ISPs send out one or two educational notices to those customers who are accused of downloading copyrighted content illegally. If the customer doesn’t stop, the ISP is then asked to send out “confirmation notices” asking that they confirm they have received notice.

At that time, the accused customers will also be informed of the risks they incur if they don’t stop pirating material. If the customer is flagged for pirating again, the ISP can then ratchet up the pressure. Participating ISPs can choose from a list of penalties, or what the RIAA calls “mitigation measures,” which include throttling down the customer’s connection speed and suspending Web access until the subscriber agrees to stop pirating.

The ISPs can waive the mitigation measure if they choose and not one of the service providers has agreed to permanently terminate service.

The partnership with the major bandwidth providers was years in the making and the deal pumped lots of confidence into the entertainment sector. After the White House and state and federal lawmakers showed support for the deal, leaders at the RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) believed they had the momentum to get anti-piracy legislation passed in Congress.

They were wrong of course. The Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act were run off the rails mostly by the tech sector. It will be interesting to see how the tech sector reacts once accused Internet pirates begin having their Web access suspended.

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