Consumers Sent 1.3 Million 'Copyright Alerts'

An anti-piracy program launched last year by movie studios, record companies and Internet providers sent out 1.3 million alerts to consumers that they were accessing infringing content.

The figures for the first 10 months of the program, released on Wednesday, were the first official numbers released by the Center for Copyright Information, the group set up to implement the voluntary industry agreement designed to curb online copyright infringement.

The Copyright Alerts are sent to consumers in a “tiered system,” in which the initial notices are designed to inform or even educate users about the presence of infringing material. But if a consumer continues to access pirated movies, TV shows or music, ignoring the alerts, they may face penalties after the fifth or sixth warning that includes having their service slowed.

The center said that less than 3% of alerts were sent out to give those final warnings — what the organization called the “final mitigation stage.” Some 70% of alerts were for the “initial education stages.”

Jill Lesser, the executive director of the center, said that the initial results were encouraging, as a goal of the program is to at first educate consumers about infringing content.

“Our initial research into consumer attitudes, along with what we have seen in our own data, shows that consumers do respond to this kind of educational system that alerts them to infringing activity on their account and helps them find the content they want easily and legally,” she said in a statement.

The program includes a way for consumers to challenge the notices. The initiative includes an arbitration process managed by the American Arbitration Assn., which reported 265 requests for review. There were no cases of an “invalid notice” identified, and only 47 successful challenges.

“The vast majority of those were based on an ‘unauthorized use of account’ defense, indicating that the account holder had made a satisfactory case that someone other than the account holder or a known (authorized) person was using the account in question to engage in impermissible P2P filing sharing of copyrighted content,” the center’s report said.

The Copyright Alerts were launched in February, 2013.

Lesser said that the center plans to launch an online public awareness campaign in the next year.

The Copyright Alert System was set up by studios, record companies and major Internet providers, including Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Cablevision. Its advisory board includes public interest advocates such as Jerry Berman, founder of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Jules Polenetsky, director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, and Leslie Harris, former president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The full report is here.

Under the setup of the program, copyright holders first send a list of content files to a monitoring service, MarkMonitor, to track for a certain period of time, and MarkMonitor then verifies instances of infringement connected to IP addresses. Then they send the notices to an ISP, which attempts to match the address to a subscriber’s account. According to the center, no information to identify subscribers are shared with copyright holders or MarkMonitor.

More than 2 million notices of alleged infringement were sent to ISPs from the monitoring service in 2013, according to the report, and of those, 1.3 million Copyright Alerts were sent to subscriber accounts. ISPs sent out 722,820 initial alerts, after which the numbers declined significantly. They sent out 214,654 second alerts, 165,065 third alerts, 94,599 fourth alerts, 60,477 fifth alerts and 37,456 sixth alerts.

The entertainment industry has been pursuing voluntary agreements, as opposed to legislation, as a way to combat piracy, and they have pointed to the initial results of the Copyright Alerts as evidence that such a plan can work. Search engines do not participate in the Copyright Alert System, and there is little indication that they are about to come to some kind of voluntary agreement with the entertainment industry to set up a similar program.

Chris Dodd, the chairman of the MPAA, wrote in a blog post that “all stakeholders — the creative content industries, ISPS, search engines, advertising networks, payment processors, and cloud storage providers – share a responsibility to curb abusive practices online, including copyright infringement. “

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