US Adopts 'Six Strikes' Internet Piracy Policy

Dennis Faas's picture

US-based Internet firms will begin an anti-piracy partnership with major copyright holders by the end of 2012. However, it's a purely voluntary operation and customers thought to be pirating will get warnings before suffering any consequences.

Several countries around the world, most notably France, have introduced "three strikes" legislation, under which customers suspected of illegally sharing copyrighted material get two warnings before having their Internet suspended or cut off altogether.

These controversial laws have faced legal challenges. Critics argue it's unfair to punish people until their alleged offenses are proven in court, and that access to the Internet is a basic right the state shouldn't take away or restrict.

For these reasons, the United States does not have such a "three strikes" law for Internet-based piracy. However, a partnership of major Internet providers with media copyright protection firms is set to introduce a similar policy, lacking legal force, within a few months.

Most Americans To Be Covered By New Piracy Policy

This anti-piracy project is led by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), a group established last year that includes most major record and movie producers plus Internet companies like AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon.

The head of the CCI, Jill Lesser, has tried to downplay the idea of "strikes". She prefers them to be called educational alerts aimed at helping users who are mistakenly breaching the law. (Source:

The precise details concerning the "six alerts" proposal are still unknown. It appears each alert will become increasingly severe.

For example, after the third or fourth alert customers may have to formally confirm they have read the warning message. On the fifth or sixth alert, customers could be forced to watch an educational video. (Source:

Copyright Consequences Inconsistent

The current proposal seems to leave it up to each Internet service provider to decide what happens if a customer persists in breaching copyright law after the sixth warning.

Options could include slowing down the offending customer's connection or passing on details of the infringement to copyright holders who could then take legal action. Internet providers could even cancel a customer's service.

One problem is that Internet service providers will be wary about cutting off access for fear of legal challenges from customers who feel they've been wrongly accused of piracy.

Internet providers might also be worried about disgruntled customers switching to rival firms. If that occurs in large enough numbers, the program might work only if all web service providers agree to follow the same "six alert" policies.

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