There's been a lot of discussion this week about the Copyright Alert System. It is a confusing thing! But if you like to steal things on the internet, or even if you don't, you should be aware of it, because this is the way copyright protection is going to work nationwide for the foreseeable future.
What Is It?
The Copyright Alert System, or CAS, is a system developed by internet service providers (ISPs include Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner) and copyright holders (largely the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the trade organizations that represent the movie, music, and television industries, respectively) to battle online piracy. The approach to battling copyright infringement before now has been piecemeal and vague--sometimes you'd get a letter telling you to stop, sometimes you'd get sued for billions of dollars, and, usually, absolutely nothing would happen--and the CAS is an effort to standardize a response to piracy.
Is The Government Involved?
It's not a governmental effort; these are private companies changing their policies, so they don't actually need anyone's approval. But the White House has voiced its support anyway:
It was hammered out in 2011, but you're hearing about it lately because it's just gone into effect this month.
How Does It Work?
The internet providers and copyright holders have begun using peer-to-peer (P2P) surveillance methods to try to sniff out when copyrighted content is uploaded or shared illegally. A company called MarkMonitor has been contracted to join BitTorrent networks (the most common way to illegally share files) and search for the names of copyright-protected movies, music, and TV shows. The list of those names is provided by the MPAA, RIAA, and NCTA. When MarkMonitor finds a file in violation, they snag the IP address of the user who's sharing the file and send it off to that user's internet provider, who issues a series of escalating warnings.
Wait, They're Snooping? Is That Legal?
It doesn't break any federal laws, and the US government has already issued a statement of support, but there's a lot of concern about how this is done. MarkMonitor is owned by Thomson Reuters, a massive multinational corporation with major influence in the legal, financial, and media fields. There is supposed to be an "independent" auditor of MarkMonitor's peer-to-peer snooping, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet-freedom activist group that has vocally disapproved of the Copyright Alert System, discovered that the auditor is...not independent.
The auditor is Stroz Friedberg, a consultancy and lobbying firm that lobbied on behalf of the RIAA in Congress for five years, up until 2009. And the specifics of how MarkMonitor will actually be conducting the peer-to-peer snooping have all been redacted from a report released by the Center for Copyright Information, the private group that's sort of overseeing this whole system.
So, we have huge corporations paying other huge corporations to spy on our file-sharing networks, and possibly other things. But we don't know which other things, or how they're doing it, because that information has been redacted. And the company that's making sure this is all above-board is the RIAA's former lobbyist.
What Happens If I Get Caught Torrenting?
The CAS is commonly known as the "six strikes" system. Ars Technica got a look at one example of these, from Comcast (because the other internet providers declined to actually send examples). The CAS is supposed to be an "education" system rather than a punitive system, so the alerts are focused not on prosecuting but on information. They'll be sent to your default email address--in the case of Comcast, that means your comcast.net address, which I think few Comcast users actually check. You'll have to dismiss these alerts, until you get to about the fifth alert, which requires you to call the Comcast Security Assurance line and hear a speech about copyright violation.
At some point during these six alerts, probably around the fourth or fifth, your internet provider could begin taking action against you, though it won't be as severe as a lawsuit or even a shutdown or your service. Instead they'll likely begin "throttling" your connection, meaning your speeds will be drastically decreased, which is infuriating and will make it difficult to download all those 720p seasons of Breaking Bad.
The big fear of pirates, especially during the Napster era, was a massive lawsuit from the RIAA or MPAA--even if you won (and you might, because the laws are largely vague and inadequate to deal with the rapidly changing landscape of file-sharing), you'd have outrageous legal fees to deal with. And that era seems to be over; it's highly unlikely that anyone will be sued now that the CAS is the default copyright-protection strategy.
That said, due to the lack of transparency here, nobody really knows what happens when you get to a sixth alert. The copyright holders have said they are not interested in prosecution, but there's nothing legally stopping them from suing. But that's all speculation, because we have no idea what's at the end of this dark path.
What If I've Been Wrongly Accused?
Well, that sucks. You'll have to pay a $35 fee to appeal your warnings, and nobody seems to have any idea how the companies will go about clearing your name. Internet providers are not exactly known for being paragons of customer service, and it's anyone's guess as to how hard they'll work on a copyright infringement appeal.
Can I Get Around The CAS?
Probably! This is a tricky question to answer, because as we noted above, nobody knows exactly how MarkMonitor is going to be tracking down potential copyright violators. Not knowing their methods makes it difficult to know how to get around them. But a Comcast representative told Ars Technica that using a VPN, or virtual private network, will probably mask your activities from MarkMonitor--the exact quote is "I think you're right," so that's assuming the rep even knows what a VPN is. (They're private networks within the internet that have higher levels of encryption--anyone outside this "network" you've set up won't be able to see what's happening within it.) Most modern torrent clients, like µTorrent and Transmission, offer identity-masking features. This TorrentFreak guide on how to download torrents anonymously is a few years old, but the advice still works.
Simple solution. Pay for stuff. If you can't afford it, don't worry about it.
The laborer is worth his wages, even if they are a large cooperation. If they want to charge $$ for their media, and the masses are willing to be entertained by it, the masses should pay for it.
The only part that anyone needs to know about this is the part about being wrongly accused.
"Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval..."
Don't worry about the "infuriating" slow download speeds Dan. ;)
Predator vs. Prey evolution is what I see here. Companies are going to begin stalking the torrent hubs and the content downloaders. The torrent clients will begin to buff up identity masking and possibly hacking abilities in retaliation.
I would like to add, if one had the money or wanted to purchase the product they would but they won't. I see that the sharing of shows and content actually have increased interest in movies and shows to the point that individuals would prefer to work themselves toward acquiring the legal form of the content. This is all speculation, of course.
Distributing copyrighted material on BitTorrent, uTorrent, Vuze or Frostwire is against United States Federal law. In the US, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to determine who may distribute their copyrighted material under US Federal law 17 USC 106.
17 USC § 106 – Exclusive rights in copyrighted works
Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
Using “filesharing” software like BitTorrent, Vuze or Frostwire violates two elements of this law because it both copies and distributes files. If you record a song, or make a movie that you own and control, you can “share” it with BitTorrent, Vuze or Frostwire and there is no problem. You cannot “share” music and movies that you do not have the rights to share.
If you do so, you have opened yourself up to the threat of lawsuit. Two hundred thousand people have been sued for “sharing” copyrighted material on the internet without permission since 2010.
Wow, I am impressed. This is an incredibly informative article and there was no swearing or ranting! I don't know if you've actually been reading the comments but if you have been awesome and thanks for the great article!
If I had the money I would definitely buy the TV shows and movies I want to watch, unfortunately I don't have that much money. I think there is going to be a huge negative impact on the entertainment industry with this. As David Petrarca,the director of GOT says "shows such as Game of Thrones thrive on “cultural buzz” and benefit from the social commentary they generate." What's going to happen when millions or maybe hundreds of thousands of people suddenly can't watch their shows?
In concept, this is good in a 'theory', but it lacks in reality of the consequences of what really will happen.
I see this being hack to death and abused, broken and shattered in to a billion useless little bits, leaving is removed sadly of any type of power.
I suspect this will be a fun read in future articles.
Agreed P2P will simply improve it's technology.
Agreed this will be abused and there will be many lawsuits I think it's very disgusting that the US government puts the interests of large companies above the interest of the people who voted them in.
The losses from piracy are greatly and vastly over exagerated and Hollywood has had record profits dispite the economic down turn.
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Yeah, as if that is going to do anything to stop piracy. All this will do is cost a horrendous amount of money. If the media industry is so worried about losing money to piracy, they should stop throwing money at lobbying and "solutions" that don't do anything. Just hire a couple of psychologists, economists and information technologists from the P2P community to help you figure out how to make money from filesharing.
" I think it's very disgusting that the US government puts the interests of large companies above the interest of the people who voted them in."
You're interests are stealing from someone and not giving them the $ they worked for?
You must be a democrat if that's what you voted the government in for.
so they are trying to control something that is not in there power to control. the internet is full of people who can easily get past this yet they still try, they fight a battle that has there inevitable defeat all over it. its commendable in a way they there dedication to their cause is unquestionable the real question now is there intelligence.
no matter what software they come out with to track it not an hour later there will be a new mask that can counter act it that is the way of the internet and they are pretty much trying to fight the true owners of the internet the people.
Interesting tag line. "-Power Corrupts-".
In the case of this article. Which power should we refer to? The power to throttle an internet connection because of theft? Or the power to get around someone else's system and steal?
Who's more corrupt?
Just choose a VPN that doesn't keep logs like ipredator or privateinternetaccess
Then download at will Pirates!!
The fundamental issue that led many people to steal movies and music is: Price. Is piracy wrong? Sure it is, but isn't it also wrong to price set, monopolize, and to form organizations such as the RIAA and MPAA with the sole intent of controlling market price? In a capitalist society, consumers are supposed to drive the price of products, not the suppliers.
Cd's stayed at $20 a cd for over 15 years even though the media cost only $0.02 to make at the time. We all know this. Music companies formed the RIAA long before Napster. What does that suggest? It suggests they were price setting. They were no longer competing for business.
They refused consumer demand for digital media and the ability to buy music a la carte. They fought tooth and nail to maintain their heavy middle man business models, but slowly they lost the fight.
Now switch to 2005/2006 when standard home internet becomes fast enough for the average user to download or stream movies and television.
For a while, the movie industry didn't flinch, but over time the amount stolen got their attention. They believe they are losing billions so they form MPAA to counteract the losses. But here's the thing, their "losses" are mostly imagined. They report figures that are based on lost sales to the government. Well, that's great except most people who pirate a movie or show, as already pointed out, would not watch that show at all otherwise. People wouldn't suddenly go get cable, buy HBO, or purchase more new movies. Why not? Because many of them couldn't afford it to begin with. If anything, their ability to watch more shows or movies does lead them to spread the word about the best products.
Enter products like HULU or Netflix. Just like with digital downloads of music, a new model came along that was preferred by the consumer. How has the movie industry responded? By pushing back against these models. Slowing release dates to services like Netflix and Redbox in the hopes you'll buy more overpriced new releases from box stores. Other companies began demanding a bigger piece of the pie from these services and refused to renew contracts. Some, like HBO, simply tried to create their own version, foolishly believing that people can afford more than one movie service.
All said, it's hard to shed tears over industries that have so poorly recognized the shifts in the market and gone to great lengths to alienate the consumer with lawsuits, government lobbying, and now internet manipulations simply because of greed.
Ok, I would LOVE to pay for legal copy of a movie, but sometimes it takes forever for the movie to be released on dvd, amazon itunes, netflix, etc. Where do movies disappear after they stop playing them in the theaters?
Have to agree. If the industry was honest, they would replace all of the broken cassettes i have purchased over the years! especially double albums like Pink Floyd The Wall!! I probably purchased that album on cassette at LEAST 10 times!!
The prices they charge are ridiculously overpriced! Make it fair and I will buy it.
Use any program that changes your IP. I like shows on "channel4.com" from UK. I have to use a UK IP to watch in USA. They work great.
It's funny that so many of the people who go on and on about big government being so bad and the free market can fix everything...really love big government when it's protecting their copyrights, IE giving them a government enforced monopoly on their products. In a totally free market, competitive capitalist, libertarian society, margins would plummet because new competitors would be able to get in and compete at low costs. Our economic system is nothing like that.
Good article.Very disturbing but a subject I feel quite passionate about.
I thought "phoenixamaranth" made some excellent points.I agree,the MPAA and RIAA a chasing a pot of gold that doesnt really exist.I think the 1st part of trying to fix this is going to be the most difficult.Copyright Law itself.
Seems like evrything in this country that I find disturbing,offensive,destructive,etc...theres a lawyer(s) in the picture.Ahead,behind,in the shadows,but theyre never the losers no matter the outcome...........:(
HERE"S THE THING. It is LEGAL for me to take my car across the street to public parking that I do not own, and leave a note saying that ANYONE who is a legal driver can use my car for the day. They get to smell that patented 'new car smell' legally. They get to see every copyrighted printed word in that car LEGALLY. They can LEGALLY choose to make songs out of that copyrighted materials.
Why is it considered different if I use a CD or DVD that I wholly own? So these record companies, they'll sell me a CD outright, but I'm breaking a law if I choose to transmit the CD to a relative or friend overseas rather than pay the expenses to mail it to them?
How's about we do that EXACT SAME BS THING to these record companies and production studios that are breaking these same copyright laws every single day with copyrighted materials that they do not own but that are indeed sent around the web without any attempt at recompense to the owners. OUR GOVERNMENT does this as well, every single day.
If I bought it, it's because someone was CHOOSING TO SELL IT TO ME. If I bought it outright, it is MINE. If someone wants to say it ain't; then they are damn well gonna have to come try to rob me of my purchased property, that I WILL do any damn thing I please with.
Maybe this can all be settled in our time honored tradition of just polluting, changing, or detracting from said copyrighted, trademarked, or patented items in some infinitesimal moot manner in the bitcode actually transmitted?
That should make everybody happy, right? All nice, neat, and legal? Precedents well set, and all conduct governed whether web based or not. Just make the copyright moot.
Is that what I would have? No. I'd have the ARTISTS know inherently, as a part of the working knowledge of their trades; that the copyright is to keep other artists or opportunists from profiteering off their work. That once they GIVE AWAY a given performance to the world in exchange for MONEY RECEIVED then it is indeed in the public domain now. We bought it. We paid you to offer it in public, and you did, and now it is ours. Like artisan bread that we are supposedly free to give away to people who need, or maybe just like, bread. Give away anything to charity lately? Then you are breaking the laws you are trying to create. You suck.