baseball bat In February of this year, the Center For Copyright Information (CCI) — a group representing rights holders in the media industries — began a so-called “six-strikes” educational campaign to combat Internet piracy.  Leading Internet Service Providers  (ISP) — Verizon, Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast and AT&T — are taking part.

Here’s how it works.  When it knows of or suspects online infringing conduct, a content provider will send an ISP a notice of copyright infringement.  The ISP will in turn forward the notice in the form of an “alert” to the offending subscriber.  These alerts are supposed to be educational in nature.  Any subscriber may receive up to six notices after which the ISP may turn off his or her Internet connectivity.  An independent review process is available should a customer believe it has been wrongfully targeted.

Not everyone likes this system.  Infringers, of course, don’t like it but others would like to see an independent body to oversee the system and not permit the ISP to “serve as judge, jury, and executioner”.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is concerned that the program will undermine efforts to promote free wi-fi since the CCI states that “subscribers are responsible for making sure their internet account is not used for copyright infringement” and that the ISPs urge users to restrict access to their wi-fi connections.
This seems designed to undermine the open wi-fi movement,” said the EFF, referring to efforts to encourage users to share their wi-fi connections with others. It is suggested that free internet access can make locations more tourist-friendly and aid the emergency services.  Open wireless is widely recognized to be tremendously beneficial to the public.
So what effect has the program had on online piracy rates?  According to one blogger, absolutely no effect.  In fact, piracy rates are still growing and traffic to one of the largest peer-to-peer piracy sites, Pirate Bay, has been trending higher.  Another question is what effect the system would have on litigation against infringers by content providers.  In one example, an adult film organization, which had sued a Verizon subscriber for allegedly infringing its x-rated film productions, subpoenaed Verizon for copies of six-strike notices received by the subscriber, information on how much bandwidth the subscriber used, and a list of viewed pay-per-view films he watched.  Surprisingly, Verizon said “no” and the fight continued.  We’re not sure what the results were but it appears that the CCI program will become a litigation weapon despite the stated educational intent of the program.  To date, our firm has not had the opportunity to view first hand the effects of the CCI program so if you have received a notice from your ISP, let us know.  We would like to see it.

— Adam G. Garson, Esq.