The days of content software receiving notices of copyright infringement from their internet service providers are about to come to an end. The Center for Copyright Information announced today that it’s killing off its Copyright Alert System, which began seeing use four years ago. The system would send a number of warnings to consumers when ISPs, studios, and artists detected copyright infringement through P2P file sharing, with different punishments envisioned depending on how many warnings a person had received.
In a statement issued today, The Center for Copyright Information didn’t explicitly state why the system was coming to an end, but it isn’t hard to imagine why. While those alerts may have scared off infrequent pirates, the repeat offenders weren’t so easily swayed. Indeed, Steven Fabrizio, who serves as executive vice president and global general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) indicated to Variety that the alert system just wasn’t effective.
“These repeat infringers are the ones who drive ongoing and problematic P2P piracy,” Fabrizio said. “In fact, an estimated 981 million movies and TV shows were downloaded in the U.S. last year using P2P.” He also noted that the system wasn’t prepared to deal with the worst offenders, as it never cut off internet access as a punishment.
Instead, the Copyright Alert System was geared more toward education than punishment for copyright infringement. After receiving a certain number of alerts, ISPs could opt to slow connection speeds or downgrade service tiers, but that was about as harsh as the punishments get. Beyond that, ISPs had to rely on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) – not notices from The Center for Copyright Information – to stop frequent pirates.
In that previously mentioned statement, The CCE didn’t bring up any of the system’s shortcomings. The statement doesn’t offer any kind of specific vision for the future either, merely saying that its partners will, “remain committed to voluntary and cooperative efforts to address these issues.” The full statement is posted below:
After four years of extensive consumer education and engagement, the Copyright Alert System will conclude its work. The program demonstrated that real progress is possible when content creators, Internet innovators and consumer advocates come together in a collaborative and consensus-driven process. CAS succeeded in educating many people about the availability of legal content, as well as about issues associated with online infringement. We want to thank everyone who put in the hard work to develop this program and make it a success, including past and present members of our Advisory Board. While this particular program is ending, the parties remain committed to voluntary and cooperative efforts to address these issues.
So, for now, we’re left to see how ISPs and organizations like the MPAA and the RIAA choose to combat piracy. Subscription services like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Go seem to help at least a little, but it’s clear from Fabrizio’s remarks that the problem is nowhere near solved. We’ll also see if The Center for Copyright Information continues to be a visible combatant of P2P piracy or if it simply fades off quietly into the night. Stay tuned.