Comcast Wants To Turn Copyright Pirates Into Legitimate Content Buyers

Like a kindly neighborhood store owner who catches a shoplifter in the act and, rather than calling the cops, offers the wannabe thief the opportunity to buy what he was trying to steal, Comcast is reportedly working on copyright alert system that would identify content being illegally shared and say to the downloader, “Hey buddy, you know you can buy that season of Game of Thrones, don’t ya?”

According to Variety, Comcast is working with content providers to figure out the particulars of how it could all work, but the gist is this: You’re a Comcast/Xfinity subscriber sitting at home and bittorrenting a copy of 2 Guns (because you’re a Mark Wahlberg fan, but not enough of one to actually pay to see the movie). Comcast recognizes that you’re illegally sharing copyrighted material. An alert pops up on your computer, along with links to where you can buy and/or rent the movie legally.

Variety’s sources say that this system is not intended to replace the existing Six Strikes Copyright Alert System that finally went into place in February. Under the CAS, alleged file-sharers are given six warnings, each increasing in seriousness, before their ISP takes action to suspend, limit, or cancel a user’s account.

The major gap that could keep CAS and the proposed Comcast system from working seamlessly together is the time-lag. The pop-up alerts are done in real-time; they’re a preemptive measure intended to stop the user from finishing his download. Meanwhile, the CAS sends out its alerts long after that film or TV show has been downloaded and probably watched.

Perhaps if the user buys or rents that content legally before finishing the download Comcast won’t hold count it as a strike against the user? We don’t know, as no one at Kabletown is officially talking about the plan.

One can argue that these pop-up alerts may not dissuade file-sharers from downloading copyrighted content. After all, it’s not like these people don’t know the films and TV shows they are downloading are available through legitimate vendors, so it’s a little unclear what Comcast hopes to achieve by directing these people to websites they surely know exist, especially since Variety claims Comcast would not get any revenue share money for referrals to third-party vendors that resulted from transactions made using this new system.