Industry, ISPs End Controversial “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System

Image courtesy of Saechang

Since the Napster era began in 1999, content creators and distributors have really, really hated it when you share their stuff online without paying up. Industry groups have tried many ways to stem the tide but one, a four-year-old cooperative alert system, is being scrapped after basically proving not to work.

Variety reports that the pact among internet service providers, movie and TV studios, and record labels that created the Copyright Alert System is being allowed to expire, and will not be renewed and the end of this particular system has come.

The Copyright Alert System (CAS) is also known as the “Six Strikes” program, because that’s how many warnings suspected infringers get.

If your ISP participates in Six Strikes, it first gives you two “educational” alerts when you are suspected of unlawfully sharing copyrighted material. After that come two “acknowledgement” alerts, that require you in some way to indicate you received and read them, and after that come two “mitigation” alerts, that can include throttling your connection speed, redirecting all of your browsing to a landing page that makes you acknowledge the warning on it, or other “minor consequences.”

Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and others all signed on in 2011. It was supposed to launch in 2012, but faced delays; finally, the program went live about four years ago, in Feb. 2013.

By Feb. 2014, one year later, Comcast was reportedly sending out 1,800 CAS notices per day to some of its millions of broadband subscribers. At most, if every single alert Comcast ever sent in the first year went to a different account-holder, roughly 3% of Comcast subscribers would have received one.

In the years since, Six Strikes has not exactly proven overwhelmingly effective. At first, file-sharers deliberately tried to trip the system but were unable to. Later, it turned into a tool that copyright trolls tried to use to identify and shake down consumers of various pornography.

Meanwhile, a court ruled in 2015 that an IP address is not enough information to identify someone as an actual file pirate: anyone using the network can show as coming from the same IP address. (Or it could be a house in Atlanta or a farm in Kansas.)

The Motion Picture Association of America, notoriously adamant about stopping file-sharing, did not provide a specific reason for ending the program, Variety reports. However, clearly the organization is frustrated at how much it hasn’t worked.

General counsel Steven Fabrizio told Variety in a statement that “repeat infringers” are still driving “ongoing and problematic [peer-to-peer] piracy,” which he claimed led to 981 million movies and TV shows being downloaded last year.

CAS was “simply not set up to deal with the hard-core repeat infringer problem,” Fabrizio concluded, saying that persistent infringers “must be addressed by ISPs” as outlined by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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