Digital Legal Top Stories

American style three-strikes goes live

By | Published on Tuesday 26 February 2013


The American version of three-strikes, which is more like six-strikes, and with a mainly undefined final sanction, is go, with the US Center For Copyright Information putting its Copyright Alert System live yesterday.

As previously reported, whereas three-strike type systems for combating illegal file-sharing have gone live in some other countries, including France and New Zealand, through a change in the law, and therefore are ultimately run by a government agency, in the US a graduated response set up has come about through a voluntary agreement between the music and movie industries and many of the country’s major internet service providers (many of whom are also cable TV providers, and who therefore have an incentive to crack down on piracy).

As with other graduated response programmes, under the Copyright Alert System rights owners will be able to alert ISPs of IP addresses that they believe are being used to regularly access unlicensed sources of music or movie content. The ISP controlling that IP address will then send a letter to the relevant customer, alerting them to the fact copyright infringement is occurring via their net connection.

A series of more severe letters would follow, ultimately with some sort of threat if a user ignores the warnings, though exactly what will be threatened will depend on the ISP and, as this is a voluntary programme, will not involve law enforcement. Although at that point the rights owners could choose to sue the end user.

The voluntary scheme had been due to kick off in late 2012, but was delayed in November, partly because some of the companies involved had suffered set backs as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Now that the programme is live, labels are expected to start filing infringement reports with the CCI this week, which will result in ISPs mailing out the first letters next month.

It remains to be seen how successful the programme is in encouraging people to use only legit sources of online content. In the UK, of course, while the 2010 Digital Economy Act theoretically put a three-strikes system in place, various sets backs, in part caused by certain UK ISPs trying to resist involvement in anti-piracy activities, mean no letter sending has as yet occurred.