Over the past year, my colleagues and I at the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) have been working hard with our creative content partners, participating Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and our Advisory Board to implement the Copyright Alert System (CAS) initially announced in July 2011. As is often the case with highly technical, multi-party programs, designing, testing and refining the CAS program was, and continues to be, hard work. We are confident the time we invested to get it right has been well worth it. Our top priority has been to make sure the program works well for consumers in every way, to ensure accuracy, protect customer privacy and offer resources that answer consumers’ questions.  While our work continues, I am pleased to report that the CAS will begin in the coming weeks.

Over the course of the next two months, each participating ISP expects to begin rolling out its version of the CAS – a system through which ISPs will pass on to their subscribers notices sent by content owners alleging copyright infringement over peer-to-peer networks.  Educational alerts will come first, followed by acknowledgement alerts that require the recipients to let their ISP know they have received the notices. For accounts where alleged infringing activity continues, enhanced alerts that contain “mitigation measures” will follow.  These mitigation measures will vary by ISP and range from requiring the subscriber to review educational materials, to a temporary slow-down of Internet access speed.   However, termination of a consumer’s Internet service is not a part of any ISP’s Copyright Alert System program. Contrary to many erroneous reports, this is not a “six-strikes-and-you’re-out” system that would result in termination.  There’s no “strikeout” in this program.

The progressive series of alerts is designed to make consumers aware of activity that has occurred using their Internet accounts, educate them on how they can prevent such activity from happening again (for example, by securing home wireless networks or removing peer-to-peer software), and provide information about the growing number of ways to access digital content legally.

An important part of our preparation to implement the CAS included asking consumers about their views on copyright and accessing content online. Consumers emphasized that they want more guidance on the “rules of the road.” We understand that it is not always clear on the Web what is legal and what is not, so one important goal of the CAS is to explain these rules for consumers and provide resources, including a soon-to-be launched enhanced CCI website, to help consumers find legitimate services to access the content they want.

We’ve also worked hard to set up a program that is accurate, fair and protects consumer interests at every step in the process. For example, we retained a recognized technology expert, Stroz Friedberg, to evaluate the content community’s system (run by MarkMonitor) for identifying alleged infringement over peer-to-peer networks. MarkMonitor uses both trained professionals and automated processes to identify illegal downloading of whole movies, TV shows and musical recordings, and the system is designed to eliminate false positives.  Stroz Friedberg has completed its initial review of MarkMonitor’s methodologies and found that the system is accurate and works properly. Importantly, the methodology for identifying infringed content and the IP address from which it has been distributed is based on a review of peer-to-peer networks and publicly available information. No personal consumer information will be obtained by MarkMonitor or content owners either in generating the notices or in passing them on to consumers.  Stroz Friedberg will continue to periodically review the content community’s methodologies to ensure they operate with the accuracy and quality we expect and that consumers deserve.

CCI has also retained Stroz Friedberg to review the technical processes used by each ISP to match subscriber accounts with IP addresses forwarded by the content owners. Those reviews are underway and will be completed before each ISP begins sending alerts under the CAS.

Another significant feature of the CAS is the ability of consumers to seek review of alerts they believe were sent in error. Content owners and ISPs want the system to be accurate. And we have established a fair and transparent process to correct errors should they occur. To do this, CCI developed an independent review program to be operated by the American Arbitration Association (AAA). AAA is a highly respected, neutral organization with deep experience in administering similar programs. The review system will allow consumers to ask a trained, impartial professional at AAA to review alerts fairly and confidentially, while honoring their expectation of privacy.

CCI has engaged in a long but necessary process to get the CAS right.  We have done so during a time of significant transition and debate about the importance of copyright protection and the way people engage online.  We have worked to understand the best ways to help consumers move away from illegal use of peer-to-peer networks and embrace the ever increasing ways to enjoy digital content both online and off.  We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make sure that the system is thorough and consumer friendly. We think we’ve achieved that goal, and we’re ready to begin this next phase.

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