New Copyright Alert System Targets Illegal Downloaders: What Pirates Should Expect

Pirates, beware: Illegally downloading content just got more complicated.

The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) will roll out its new Copyright Alert System over the next two months with participating U.S. internet service providers. The goal of these notifications is to cease copyright infringement via peer-to-peer networks through a series of warnings, followed by possible punishment for particularly stubborn law breakers.

"Consumers emphasized that they want more guidance on the 'rules of the road,' a recent CCI press release stated. The organization says it also understands downloadable content is not always clearly marked as illegal or legitimate, and it hopes to "explain these rules for consumers."

According to CNN, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon are the internet providers currently cooperating with CCI. A service called MarkMonitor is being used to scope out IP addresses with illegal web activity, which will consequently be reported to the offender's internet provider. No personal information is supposed to be revealed through this process.

So how will you be affected if illegally downloading content from peer-to-peer websites (like BitTorrent) is one of your pastimes? Or if someone is using your insecure WiFi connection to download copyrighted content?

  • First, your internet provider will "send an online alert" such as an email, notifying you of possible misuse. This message will also send subscribers education material about network safety and legal sources for content.
  • The second alert will be similar to the first, with an emphasis on the educational message.
  • Your third alert will contain the same message as the previous notifications. But this time, users will have to acknowledge they've seen the alerts with "a click-through pop-up notice, landing page, or similar mechanism." So by notice number three, internet providers want subscribers to be aware they've spotted your illegal activity.
  • The fourth alert will contain the same message and acknowledgment feature as the third notice.
  • By the fifth alert, your internet provider may use "Mitigation Measures" to catch attention. This could include purposely slowing down your internet so downloading becomes difficult, or redirecting you to a landing page with the internet provider's contact information and a request you speak directly with the company about the stolen content.
  • The sixth notification will be similar to the fifth. CCI believes by this point that "very few subscribers" will persist in copyright infringement (though we're not so sure about that). While cutting off a customer's internet doesn't appear to be one of the Mitigation Measures, the exact steps taken will differ depending on a your internet provider.

But what about those rumors about users' Internet getting cut off altogether? Not true, says CCI Executive Director Jill Lesser, who recently spoke to The Hill about the new guidelines. "In one case there's a temporary slow down of [Internet] speed, but that doesn't impact access to sites," she said. "That's not the way this works at all [...] When you're in a walled garden, all you essentially have to do is go through the education [material] and then you're out of the walled garden."

Lesser also insisted that the new system doesn't make users vulnerable to copyright suits. From The Hill: "Receiving an alert 'doesn't mean you're anymore liable to be sued or the content owner has anymore eligibility to sue someone,' she said."

If customers believe they've been wrongly targeted by the Copyright Alert System, a review can be requested for $35, according to The Verge. This initiative was announced in July of 2011 and has been an under construction project for about four years.

Have you every received an online alert or warning from your internet service provider? What do you think about these new measures being taken against illegal downloading... and will it really curb pirates? Sound off in the comments section, or tweet us your opinions at [@HuffPostTech]. Then flip through the slideshow below of the countries who download the most illegal music, or read more about how pirates might also be the music industry's savoir.

Top 9 Countries For Unauthorized Music Downloads