US ISPs send 1.3 million copyright warnings to customers

A new study has found only a very small number of US internet users receive the final sixth piracy warning, but whether that means the US system is having the desired effect remains to be seen.

Internet service providers (ISPs) in the US sent 1.3 million copyright notices to customers in 10 months — a figure the organisation behind the anti-piracy system expects to double over the next year.

The numbers come from first report on the US' "six strikes" copyright alert system, which launched in February 2013 and is run by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) to tackle copyright infringement over peer-to-peer networks.

The five ISPs that participate in the CAS program are AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable. All have agreed to send customers a warning if requested by content owners represented by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Under the three-tiered system, the first two notices are "educational alerts", and the second two require that a person acknowledges they've received an alert. After users pass the "mitigation alert" stage (the fifth and sixth notices), they may have their internet speeds throttled or browser redirected to a copyright educational page for a set period of time.

According to the CCI, 1.3 million notifications have been sent to 722,820 customer accounts. Of the notifications, 72 percent were education alerts, while eight percent reached the mitigation alert stage.

2014-05-29 01.50.10 pm
Image: Center for Copyright Information

The CCI is interpreting the numbers cautiously, noting that while the accounts that get sent alerts "appear to be deterred after the first alert", there could be many reasons why those users are not seen to be infringing again.

In a blogpost, CEO of the RIAA Cary Sherman was cautiously optimistic about what the low number of later stage alerts mean for deterring piracy.

"Throughout the six 'stages' of the Alert program, there were fewer and fewer Alerts sent at each level," Sherman wrote. "Does that all mean we can make a declaratory judgment that we've won the piracy fight? Of course not. This program was never intended to do that. But that CCI was finding fewer instances of piracy within the parameters of this program means that people were getting the message and going elsewhere for their music. 1.3 million Alerts with no false positives is paradigmatic of an operationally sound system. We strived for accuracy and our goal was met."

The parameters of the program are an important factor. Researchers that looked at France's three-strikes system under its Hadopi law noted the focus on P2P piracy may have encouraged users to seek content outside the scope of the scheme, such as streaming sites.

Still, the CCI believes the alerts are making a difference and said the "program is slated to at least double the number of notices sent and processed in size in the coming year".

 Read more on copyright