Accord aimed at warning consumers who use infringing content

Progress is being made on a long-in-the-works voluntary plan among studios, record labels and Internet providers to combat online piracy by alerting and warning users when they are downloading infringing content.

No agreement has been signed between the MPAA, the RIAA and major Internet providers, but a deal could be reached by next month.

A source familiar with the talks said in the works is an “escalating response” system, whereby Internet providers would alert users who downloaded or streamed infringing content. After they acknowledge that they got such a notice, repeat abusers would face some sort of sanction. Internet providers would have a range of options on what the sanction could be: Slowing Internet speeds or education courses are possibilities, but termination of service is not, the source says.

If an agreement is reached, it would represent a breakthrough of sorts as the entertainment industry looks for more cooperation from Internet providers. Showbiz has long complained that ISPs have not done enough to combat infringement.

For their part, Internet providers have been cautious about embracing sweeping measures because of liability reasons — and any law that would require ISP to formally crack down on repeat abusers is viewed as out-of-reach politically.

Although Internet providers have been cooperative in sending out initial notices to users who are consuming pirated content, this would formalize the process.

On Wednesday, the White House’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel endorsed voluntary agreements and said that her office has been working on bringing the parties together.

“Voluntary cooperative solutions are a priority focus and we believe that, in combination with law enforcement action, voluntary actions by the private sector have the potential to significantly reduce online infringement,” Espinel said in her testimony.

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