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US internet providers sent over 1.3 million piracy warnings in system's first year

US internet providers sent over 1.3 million piracy warnings in system's first year

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During the first year of its operation, the controversial Copyright Alert System that's backed by big ISPs, including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable, sent out more than 1.3 million notifications to customers detected to be downloading or sharing pirated content. The system is known for its six-strike rule, which gradually elevates the severity of warnings and punishments consumers receive for piracy, with later strikes potentially resulting in internet speed reductions or a temporary removal of service.

Most warnings were "educational"Most notifications came during what the system's operator, the Center for Copyright Information, calls an "initial educational phase" — the early strikes during which its message to suspected pirates attempts to teach them about copyright infringement and acquiring content legally. These accounted for close to 1 million of the warnings, with less than 100,000 reaching the final two strikes.

The Center for Copyright Information says this is just the beginning, however. In a report released today detailing its 10 months of operation after opening in 2013, the center says that it believes the notifications it sent only cover a small percentage of all copyright infringement cases. It intends to double in scope for 2014 and begin a publicity campaign so that people are aware that the system is in place.

Only 265 of the warnings in 2013 were challenged, and the center says that none of them were determined to be inaccurate. Several dozen of them were successfully overturned, however, on the grounds that the account holder was not the person responsible for the detected piracy. The center says that it's focused on accuracy, with copyright education being the warning's primary goal. So long as the person does not reach the final strikes, they won't actually be put at risk of an infringement lawsuit

"Our initial research into consumer attitudes — along with what we have seen in our own data — shows that consumers do respond to this kind of educational system that alerts them to infringing activity on their account and helps them find the content they want easily and legally," Jill Lesser, executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, says in a statement.

Despite Lesser's feelings, similar systems haven't been well received, and one in France was even gutted and replaced with a more basic system of limited fines shortly after its initial implementation. Still, the major decline in repeat offenders suggests the system could be having an effect, at least in the short term, and at the very least it should allow consumers to avoid lawsuits from the MPAA and RIAA, which also wouldn't mind being able to avoid perpetuating images of themselves as bullheaded copyright enforcers against even the smallest party. But for now, even the center notes that with just 10 months of information to examine, it's too early to tell.