Most people would say that the "Six Strikes" Copyright Alert System has been an utter failure. We've not yet heard a single success story. In fact, we've not heard anything about it since it launched earlier this year. A new report suggests that Comcast may already be tiring of this method and is now working on a new plan that would encourage pirates to buy content instead of punishing them.
Variety reports that Comcast is working on a new anti-piracy plan that approaches pirates as potential consumers instead of criminals. It's a shocking development for an industry that has been hellbent on treating pirates as nothing but criminals. Even the consumer education-focused CAS treated consumers like criminals with its myriad of punishments.
In stark contrast to the CAS, Comcast's new plan wouldn't tell pirates that their efforts are destroying the livelihoods of millions, or that their efforts will lead to the downfall of Hollywood. Instead, Comcast would send a simple pop-up ad to BitTorrent users with links to legal alternatives. It would happen while the content is being downloaded so pirates would be faced with a moral conundrum - continue downloading the content in question or just pony up the cash for it.
Comcast may be proposing nothing more than a sophisticated guilt trip, but it's still a far better alternative to the punishments in the CAS. That being said, Comcast isn't ready to sell its new system as a CAS replacement. It's instead being billed as a complement to the CAS. Of course, that could change if CAS remains a target of criticism.
We won't be able to see the results of Comcast's ambitious new plan for a while though as the company's engineers have not even begun work on it. It's not said when work will start on the program, but they'll be working alongside NBC Universal to make it happen. In the meantime, Comcast will have to convince other cable companies to embrace the future of treating pirates like customers. If the past is any indication, this will be hardest part.
Still, credit must be given where credit is due. Comcast's new plan sounds like a step in the right direction. The pessimistic side of me is saying that the company will do something to screw it up, but I want to remain optimistic for now. Piracy has always been a service problem, and it looks like Comcast is taking a step in the right direction.