With the entertainment industry's "six strikes" anti-piracy plan very close to launch, some ISPs are finally willing to talk a little
about the new steps they'll be taking to thwart pirates on their networks starting later this month. CNET's
Declan McCullagh moderated a panel discussion on the new six strikes initiative this week, where ISPs and the RIAA and MPAA tried to downplay concerns about the program. McCullagh's write up of the discussion
notes that Time Warner Cable and Verizon have confirmed they won't be booting pirates from their networks -- though their deal with the entertainment industry technically still leaves the option on the table:
Molly Land, assistant professor of law at New York Law School, which hosted today's event, said that there's enough ambiguity in the so-called memorandum of understanding (PDF) between Internet providers and copyright holders to permit disconnection. "The sanction of termination is disproportionate to the goals of the system," Land said. "If there's a decision not to have termination on the table, can we get that in writing? The possibility is still there."
As for concerns that the six strikes plan is really about collecting user data for more lawsuits
, the MPAA insisted they won't be suing users, though many copyright holders want the option to remain on the table. Having a centrally-managed database of repeat offenders seems like it's too good of an opportunity for industry lawyers to pass up, so any promises of no lawsuits should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
Despite moderating the panel, McCullagh oddly fails to inform his readers that while they won't be kicked offline, ISPs may still employ practices ranging from throttling to filtering websites until users confirm receipt of "educational materials." Other reports are offering more detail on that front. From Torrent Freak
Link Hoewing, Vice President of Internet and Technology Issues for Verizon, said his company will employ a three stage process. The first two alerts will result in a simple notification email informing the users that their connection has been flagged for copyright infringements. After the second warning comes the acknowledgment phase in which a popup is delivered users. Once received subscribers are required to read and confirm, a process designed to ensure that they are aware of the unauthorized sharing thats taking place via their account.
If the infringements continue punishments become a reality on the fifth and the sixth alerts. Hoewing said that these repeated infringers will have their Internet connections throttled resulting in significantly slower download speeds. The throttling is temporary and will be lifted after two or three days.
Fernando Laguarda, Time Warner Cables Vice President of External Affairs, said his company will take a slightly different approach. The notification and acknowledgment phases are fairly similar, but instead of reducing connection speeds they will restrict users Internet browsing by directing them to a landing page.
Laguarda did not explain in detail for how long users will be restricted or what websites they will be able to reach, if any.
I've fired questions on the plans to around eight ISPs, none of which have been willing to discuss their plans on the record in full detail (though I'm still working on it), suggesting carrier liability and PR concerns remain. ISPs certainly don't want to lose customers to smaller non-participating ISPs (a nice marketing opportunity for small carriers by the way), and they obviously don't want to disconnect a paying loyal customer because he downloaded the Led Zeppelin discography. I've talked to several industry executives who've acknowledged ISPs aren't thrilled about the PR hit they're going to take playing content nannies.
The plan has been heavily criticized by numerous groups including the EFF, in large part because it assumes guilt
, the industry's "education" material will be highly skewed (surely there will be a fair use chapter, right?), guilt-by-IP-addreess has long been tenuous on the evidence front, and users have to pay a $35 fee if they want to contest the accusation of piracy. There's also no real indication that the plan will work -- with most users simply moving to proxies or VPNs to avoid the spying eyes of their ISPs.
Leaked AT&T documents last month revealed that November 28
was the likely start date for the new program.