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America’s Copyright Alert System is wound down

By | Published on Tuesday 31 January 2017

As UK internet service providers get ready to finally start sending ‘educational emails’ to suspected file-sharers as identified by rights owners, a similar scheme that went live in the US in 2013 – the Copyright Alert System – is being officially wound down.

Whereas the UK educational emails are the result of a government-led initiative, and ultimately an obligation on the ISPs to comply contained in the 2010 Digital Economy Act, the US scheme was voluntary. Various major net firms opted to work with the music and movie industries by committing to forward warning letters to suspected online copyright infringers, warning said web users that they could be sued for copyright infringement.

With the CAS having been originally agreed in 2011 before going live in 2013, last we heard participants in the scheme – while agreeing to continue with the letter forwarding in the short term – were considering the future of the programme.

Then late last week the organisation that oversaw the initiative said: “After four years of extensive consumer education and engagement, the Copyright Alert System will conclude its work. The programme demonstrated that real progress is possible when content creators, internet innovators and consumer advocates come together in a collaborative and consensus-driven process”.

While some questioned the tangible success of the letter sending – with many file-sharers just choosing to ignore any correspondence – last week’s statement insisted that the “CAS succeeded in educating many people about the availability of legal content, as well as about issues associated with online infringement”.

It added: “We want to thank everyone who put in the hard work to develop this programme and make it a success, including past and present members of our advisory board. While this particular programme is ending, the parties remain committed to voluntary and co-operative efforts to address these issues”.

Most music and movie firms still believe that ISPs should do more to tackle piracy on their networks, but the Copyright Alert System helped improve relationships between the rights owners and the net firms in the US. Meanwhile the one big internet provider Stateside that didn’t participate in the programme – Cox Communications – found itself on the receiving end of a massive copyright infringement lawsuit from BMG, the appeal of which is ongoing.