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“Three Strikes” and Verizon: Not Happening

January 21, 2010 , ,

Yesterday's CNET report that Verizon had secretly adopted a “three strikes” policy towards alleged copyright infringers had our office all atwitter last night – how could a charter member of our ad hoc copyright reform coalition be engaging in such radical activity? Well, it turns out they weren't.

As their misquoted spokesperson explains here, what Verizon employs is a process for passing on warning notices to alleged infringers, but that process does not include automatic termination. My guess is that to the extent that she was talking about infringers having their internet access terminated, she was referring to people who had been adjudicated by a court to be infringing, and as such, they would be violating Verizon's terms of service.

Passing on warning notices that do not involve deep packet inspection is a process for limiting infringement that PK wholeheartedly supports and which appears to be quite effective. As we've noted in the past, at least one movie industry lobbyist claims that warning notices work 80% of the time. Indeed, according to the CNET article, the Verizon spokeswoman agreed that the notices had their intended effect:

But Henson also noted that what's really important about this is that issuing warning letters is proving to be effective. Verizon has been sending letters to DSL and Fios broadband subscribers since last April and warning them that they–or someone in their household–may have been illegally downloading copyrighted content.

Can a simple scolding e-mail turn illegal downloaders into model Internet citizens?

“We've found that we don't have to warn most people a second time,” Henson said. “Most people stop. Or they tell whoever is doing it to stop.”

Henson said a lot of people are unaware that someone in their house is downloading copyrighted material–most notably music, movies, and games–until they get the warning e-mail. “You get a teenager doing it, and the parent gets the e-mail, and they tell them to cut it out.”

On a panel I participated in this past Tuesday, RIAA Vice President Steve Marks claimed that such notices work only 10% of the time when there is “no deterrent.” Setting aside the fact that being sued for copyright infringement is one heck of a deterrent, his figures (and unsurprisingly, he cited no empirical study for that number) don't match others in the content industry or among ISPs.