Content Creators and ISPs Come Together to Combat Online Piracy

Today, several members of the film and music industries, along with major U.S. Internet service providers announced a new partnership that seeks to curb online theft by creating a new copyright alert system. According to the group’s statement, the alert system will be similar to credit card fraud alert systems, notifying subscribers that their accounts are being used to download illegal content and that such activities are a violation of the subscriber’s terms of service agreement with the broadband providers.

The system will include “six-strikes” and by the fifth alert, the ISPs have the option of implementing several “mitigation measures” that may include, "temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter." Its not surprising that there is little mention of turning off a subscriber’s internet access, as ISPs would be hard pressed now or anytime in the future to turn away paying customers. The coalition instead is relying on the idea that most users, if notified of the illegality and consequences of illegal downloading, are likely to quit the infringement.

While it is still in its preliminary stages, this agreement seems to be a balanced, pragmatic approach that uses private resources to combat the threat of online infringement and one that should have been implemented years ago. (Better late than never, I suppose.)

The coalition also included a reminder of the economic impact of online piracy (something we have done repeatedly on this site), stating, “Every year, content theft costs the U.S. economy more than 373,000 jobs, $16 billion in lost earnings, and $3 billion in lost federal, state and local government tax revenue.” In a time of high unemployment, those numbers are significant.

This announcement also comes the same day as Hulu’s announcement that it has reached nearly a million subscribers to its Hulu Plus service, further proving content providers are creating innovative ways to make online works readily available to consumers on multiple platforms. Customers now more than ever have a plethora of options from Hulu to Amazon to iTunes to access content online easily, legally, and cheaply.

In the never-ending debate on the best way to combat intellectual property theft, its encouraging to see companies coming together to enact a non-governmental, voluntary solution to online theft.