What’s Going on with the Copyright Alert System?

As I wrote in April, I joined the Advisory Board of the Center for Copyright Information to serve as consumers’ eyes and ears as an agreement between the major Internet service providers and copyright holders is implemented.   The agreement requires ISPs to send up to six “alerts” to alleged peer-to-peer infringers, with the last two alerts resulting in so-called “mitigation measures” and an opportunity for the user to appeal.  

The system was scheduled to launch in July, and the delay in the launch and relative silence has some floating theories of ISP pushback and content industry scheming to turn the system into an excuse for disconnection.  But the reality is a lot less exciting.   In a nutshell, there was a lot of foundational and technical work that needed to be done before the launch, so the July date was unrealistic. 

What does the work consist of?  Three things.  First, the ISPs are still implementing the technology for sending the alerts and it has taken longer than first expected.  Second, the Board, with the Advisory Board’s advice, has been testing messages for the alerts to see what will be effective and what will not.  This testing has included focus groups with parents and young adults.  Third, the American Arbitration Association is putting in place its procedures for appeals, including making sure the process is as simple as possible.  

The CCI’s alert methods and messaging will almost certainly be shaped by the recent reports from France that discuss the demise of the “3 strikes” Hadopi law.   The French Culture minister has concluded that the law is a “failure,” partly because of its inability to promote legal content to replace illegal downloads. 

Perhaps most important for the CCI to heed is what the head of the French commission on the “Future of Piracy” said about the law:

The error of Hadopi was to focus on the penalty. If one starts from the penalty, it will fail.

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