MPAA, RIAA celebrate controversial new ‘Copyright Alert System’

Global discussion on how – or if – Internet Service Providers should police the web has reached a fever pitch over the past few weeks. Reports out of Ireland illustrated some pitfalls with the concept, while a UK hearing in June saw copyright defenders seeking an injunction against a British ISP which would require the company to cut-off access to usenet index site Newzbin. In the U.S., a deal struck this week between several companies including AT&T, Comcast and Cablevision could see those accused of illegally downloading copyrighted content hit with email alerts and internet speed reductions.

The MPAA and RIAA – key backers of the new anti-piracy offensive – shared their thoughts on the so-called “Copyright Alert System.”

MPAA, RIAA celebrate controversial new 'Copyright Alert System'

“Many people don’t realize that content theft puts jobs – and future productions of films, TV shows, music, and other content – at risk,” opined Michael O’Leary, Executive Vice President for Government Relations at the MPAA. “Today, there are more ways to enjoy content legitimately online than ever before. This agreement will help direct consumers to legal platforms rather than illicit sites, which often funnel profits to criminals rather than the artists and technicians whose hard work makes movies, television, and music possible.”

Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA, called the agreement “groundbreaking,” adding: “We hope that it signals a new era in which all of us in the technology and entertainment value chain work collaboratively to make the Internet a more safe and legal experience for users.”

According to the group’s statement (.pdf), the new system would alert users whenever their online service accessed illicit content up to six times before the aforementioned “mitigation measures” were implemented in response.

Verizon, a partner in the venture, echoed the industry organization’s sentiments.

“This is a sensible approach to the problem of online-content theft and, importantly, one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers,” said Randal S. Milch, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon. “This broad industry effort builds on existing agreements with several copyright owners to forward their notices of alleged infringement to ISP subscribers. We hope that effort – designed to notify and educate customers, not to penalize them – will set a reasonable standard for both copyright owners and ISPs to follow, while informing customers about copyright laws and encouraging them to get content from the many legal sources that exist.”

Abigail Phillips, a senior staff attorney at online rights advocate the Electronic Frontier Foundation, admitted that “educating users about copyright is a worthy endeavor,” but cautioned it should be “balanced and objective.” Phillips worries that redirecting alleged copyright thieves to sites with “big-media rhetoric” may not be the best way do so.

What do you think about this new plan? Will it actually cut down on piracy, or only motivate copyright infringers to develop new means and methods? Let us know in the comment section.