End the Lie

Ulterior motives behind the Copyright Alert System

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By Adam B. Levine

Contributing writer for End the Lie

The Copyright Alert Systemannounced last year – went into effect this week for all AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon subscribers.

The particular implementation varies between carriers, but the basics of the program are:

  • All P2P traffic on participating networks will be scanned for copyright infringements
  • Infringing content will generate an escalating “alert” to the IP correlated account holder
  • Early alerts are automated phone calls, mandatory “educational videos,” and receipt-confirmation-required notifications
  • Later alerts range from heavily throttled connection speeds (256k), inability to visit “certain websites” to the inability to visit whatever websites you most frequently visit.
  • You are guilty until proven innocent.  You may appeal, it costs $35 per appeal in advance and they kindly refund it if they agree they were wrong
  • Offenders who refuse to change their habits after 8 warnings will no longer receive “Copyright Alerts”

Wait… what?

Brooke Gladstone of OnTheMedia interviewed Jill Lesser, Executive Director of the industry group Center for Copyright Information earlier this month:

Brooke: What happens if you get 7, 8 and 9 strikes?

Jill: We hope by the time people get to alerts 5 or 6, they’ll stop.  Once they’ve been mitigated, once they received several alerts, we’re just not going to send them any more alerts because they’re not the kind of customer we’re going to reach with this program

B: So what happens to them?

J: Nothing, under this program

B: So either they get sued by someone, or you stop mitigating and walk away?

J: Exactly.

Now, that doesn’t appear to make sense – but looking a little deeper the picture becomes more clear.

From the Memorandum of Understanding that created the Center for Copyright Information in 2011 program:

Post Mitigation Measures Step:

In the event that a Participating ISP receives a further ISP Notice determined to be associated with a Subscriber’s account after a Mitigation Measure has been applied on that Subscriber’s account, the Participating ISP shall direct a further Mitigation Measure Copyright Alert to the account holder and after ten (10) business days or fourteen (14) calendar days, as applicable, either re-apply the previous Mitigation Measure or apply a different Mitigation Measure, unless the Subscriber requests review under one of the dispute resolution mechanisms specified in Section 4(H). The Mitigation Measure Copyright Alert at this step shall also inform the Subscriber that the Subscriber may be subject to a lawsuit for copyright infringement by the Copyright Owners and that continued infringement may, inappropriate circumstances, result in the imposition of action consistent with section 512 of the DMCA and/or actions specifically provided for in the Participating ISP’s AUP and/or TOS including temporary suspension or termination.

Upon completion of the Post Mitigation Measures Step, a Participating ISP may elect voluntarily to continue forwarding ISP Notices received for that Subscriber account, but is not obligated to do so. The Participating ISP will, however, continue to track and report the number of ISP Notices the Participating ISP receives for that Subscriber’s account, so that information is available to a Content Owner Representative if it elects to initiate a copyright infringement action against that Subscriber.

So even though the “Alerts” stop being sent to the IP address holder, they’re can be sued, and the data collection and distribution to the “Content Owner Representatives” (The RIAA And MPAA) continues indefinitely whether they sue or not.

A brief explanation of the alert system can be seen below:

In years past there would be a somewhat difficult process to prove knowing and willful infringement thanks to the “I am not my IP Address” reality, but the steps taken under the Copyright Alert System seem well positioned to speed things up.

On the one hand, the system is about scaring away casual “pirates,” while on the other standardizing a model of establishing willful, continuous infringement where “I didn’t know it was occurring” is ruled out by the mandatory signed acknowledgements.

An unauthorized user performing the infringement is ruled out by the mandatory class on securing your wireless networkCopyright infringement is against the law, and you knew it is demonstrated in the mandatory educational videos.

People are going to get sued for what their kids download, and they’re going to lose in droves with evidence like this.

The counterargument here is, “Most P2P traffic is encrypted, how can you scan encrypted traffic for infringement?” To which I say, it’s not the efficacy of the program, so much as the visibility and normalizing of the program that is the purpose.

Really though, I think this is the ground floor of a multi-story structure. Once they make it normal for peer to peer traffic, educating everyone and “going after the worst offenders,” it’s easy to transpose the model onto other classes of internet traffic or just everything.

Similar things have been tried before by individual companies, but acting alone they’re vulnerable once exposed.

The silence about this project immediately leading up to launch is unusual given the fervor over SOPA and PIPA. The fact that this program is run by a telecom cartel instead of government means we have even less transparency than usual.

One thing that’s clear is this is a dangerous precedent, and meant as a beachhead, not the invasion.

Edited by End the Lie

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12 Responses to Ulterior motives behind the Copyright Alert System

  1. joe February 28, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Hi, do these laws apply in Canada?

  2. Mannard February 28, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    Use OpenDNS’s DNSCrypt paired with TOR and guard your privacy!

  3. Adam B. Levine February 28, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    They’re not laws – It’s a set of standards, policies & procedures overseen by the Copyright Information Institute and adhered to by its members.

    If you get your internet from any of the 5 providers mentioned, being in canada likely won’t matter.

  4. chip March 4, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Thanks for a very information rich article. What happens to library or internet cafe wireless ?

    • Adam B. Levine March 6, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Hi Chip,
      “community” wireless, which includes both the categories you mentioned, is exempted from the program. It’s been speculated that if you upgrade to more expensive “business class” service, you recieve an automatic exemption.

      So again, it’s not intended to end piracy – It’s intended to systemize and normalize the practice of scanning traffic to find “the worst offenders”

  5. abinico warez March 4, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    Looks like the days of open transfers are coming to an end. Sharers will have to take measures to remain anonymous. Note that many widely used encryption SW like PGP are easily broken unless you take extra measure. To confound the watchers, first compress the data then strip the header and now encrypt. And to be sure you might want repeat this 2 or 3 times using different compress methods and encryption.

    • Adam B. Levine March 6, 2013 at 1:47 PM

      Honestly the Copyright Alert System is supposed to scare you, not actually work. I spoke with http://www.market-ticker.org about the encryption issue (he ran a large ISP for 10+ years) and he just laughed at me.

      He didn’t even think the Copyright Alert System was worth talking about because even now most p2p software has built-in encryption, and the amount of time the ISP actually has to scan the packets in-transfer means they can hardly scan at all, much less break even rudimentary encryption.

      My point to him was the existence of the practice is the bad part, not if it stops piracy or not. Making non-privacy the norm with “certain types of more likely to be guilty” data is nothing but dangerous to the future of the internet.

  6. Joe Faucher March 4, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    The very multimedia companies that back up the RIAA and MPAA are the ones who distributed the P2P programs such as kazaa and utorrent. They promoted them for the very purpose that they are now attacking the users for.

    • Adam B. Levine March 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      That’s quite a charge – Any documentation to back it up? the RIAA and MPAA have (to my eyes) been very reactive, and the idea that they’re behind utorrent and kazaa seems out of character.

  7. jj March 5, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    its really funny actually. when more and more people realize that the company that is supposed to protect their privacy is watching them people will start to leave in the droves heh,

    5 years time this will either go buh bye, or isp’s will be bankrupt and the internet will be free and the government will have to “bail” them out, then it will be mandatory to have a government pc with internet connection ^^

    on another note, the only way they can track a certain p2p thread is if they themselves put something into it to track it and “identifier” if you will. in my eyes this is fraud and at best entrapment and also it basically makes thier case null and void because THEY PAID SOMEONE TO PUT THE CONTENT OUT THERE BREAKING THEIR OWN CONTRACT. TO ME IF A COMPANY PAYS OR ALLOWS ANOTHER COMPANY TO PUT IT OUT IN THE INTERNET, THEY VOIDED THE WHOLE PURPOSE BECAUSE THEY JUST GAVE IT AWAY FOR FREE REGARDLESS IF IT WAS MEANT FOR TRACKING

    • Adam B. Levine March 6, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Who says your ISP is supposed to protect your privacy?

      The big telecoms are heavily regulated monopolies that work together with the government to keep things that way. Look at AT&T’s cooperating with the Bush administration on warrantless wiretapping. That was blatantly illegal at the time, but the federal government wanted it done and the Telecoms delivered.

      When the lawbreaking was later discovered, congress jointly granted retro-active immunity to the telecoms because of concerns they wouldn’t cooperate in the future.

      These entities break constitutional rules with immunity at the request of a supposedly constitutional government, you think they care about abiding by their internal terms of service?

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