Top Internet Service Providers and media groups are very close to a deal that would amount to one of the most serious anti-piracy measures to date. According to multiple sources, CNET is reporting that a group of ISPs that includes AT&T, Comcast and Verizon is only a month or so away from an agreement with the RIAA and the MPAA. The deal is being brokered by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), whose members include Time Warner Cable and Qwest Communications.
The agreement, which has apparently been in the works for some time, would see participating ISPs put some teeth on their anti-piracy efforts.
Under the proposed plan, ISPs would send out written warning to users who were flagged as sharing copyrighted material across P2P networks. These written warning would be called "Copyright Alerts" and there is no word on how many warnings a user would get before more drastic measures were implemented.
This is basically what is in place right now for many ISPs. Not all ISPs send written warnings, some send emails and make phone calls as well.
Where the new plan distinguishes itself is with the strategies for dealing with the repeat "offenders." Apparently ISPs would have some flexibility in choosing how to deal with these customers, but CNET's sources give some specific examples of possible responses. A user who is deemed to have shared files illegally may see their internet restricted - maybe just to the top 200 sites until the sharing ceases. The ISP may even be able to intentionally slow down the user's bandwidth speed.
Here's the best part - "The subscriber may also be required to participate in a program that educates them on copyright law and the rights of content creators."
So...P2P traffic school? Seriously? Will it help me avoid points on my internet license?
The plan is called a "graduated response" method.
Of course the ISPs will not be constantly monitoring users for "illegal file sharing." It will be the job of copyright owners to accuse internet users of malfeasance, and then the ISPs will be at liberty to act.
Recent attempts to combat file sharing by industry groups include the takedown and eventual settlement with P2P service Limewire. Some film companies have enlisted the services of U.S. Copyright Group. That particular organization monitors IP addresses for "illegal file sharing" and then subpoenas ISPs for user's information. Many times they will sue large numbers of users, as we've seen with the Hurt Locker and Expendables cases. They will then offer smaller settlements, maybe a couple thousand dollars, to the defendants.
Those cases involved over 47,000 people combined. These new measures, if they go into place, have the ability to affect an even larger number of people.
CNET's sources made a point to stress that the deals were not finalized, but were incredibly close. Unless the communications fall through, it looks like ISPs are going to join the anti-piracy movement in a big way.