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'Six strikes' anti-piracy initiative ends after failing to scare off 'hardcore' pirates

'Six strikes' anti-piracy initiative ends after failing to scare off 'hardcore' pirates

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The MPAA and RIAA are giving up on their much-hyped "six strikes" initiative to scare people out of pirating TV shows, movies, and music. Their reason for ending it: the initiative didn’t really work.

The "six strikes" system — formally known as the Copyright Alert System — launched in 2013 as a partnership between copyright holders and internet providers. The system was designed to scare people out of pirating by sending warning notices whenever they were caught. As a person received more warnings ("strikes"), their penalties would increase. It was even possible for their internet speed to be temporarily slowed down.

The system "was simply not set up to deal with the hardcore repeat infringer problem"

But the system didn’t manage to substantially decrease piracy, so the parties involved are calling it off for good.

MPAA general counsel Steven Fabrizio says that "a significant number of users who received alerts stopped engaging in piracy." But he says the system did nothing to address a "persistent group of hardcore, repeat infringers" who were "unlikely to change their behavior" after receiving these warnings.

It sounds like these pirates essentially called the system’s bluff. It turns out, nothing actually happened after you received six strikes. Your internet connection wasn’t turned off. You weren’t sued. And so people just kept pirating.

"The [Copyright Alert System] structure was simply not set up to deal with the hardcore repeat infringer problem," Fabrizio says.

The industry has known for a while that the system wasn’t working. In 2015, The Internet Security Task Force — a group representing smaller film producers — released a report saying that the system is "a sham." For one film, the group said that only 0.3 percent of the infringement notices the copyright holder reported to internet providers actually got served to customers. They claimed internet providers who supported the copyright alert system had actually seen a 4.54 percent increase in piracy.

There's no replacement system, for now

The Center for Copyright Information, which was set up to administer the alert system, said that the program "succeeded in educating many people," but didn't provide further details.

The last time the center provided information on the alert system appears to have been in 2014, when it said that 1.3 million alerts were sent out in the program's first 10 months. Less than 3 percent of those, the group said, were sixth strikes.

No new initiative is being announced to replace the Copyright Alert System — for now, at least. But with this voluntary program being deemed a failure, it's entirely possible these groups will next look to Congress or attempt to put in place a stricter agreement. The Internet Security Task Force pointed to a Canadian law that it says "produced sizable decreases in piracy" by requiring internet providers to forward piracy warnings. Its suggestion in 2015 was to "let the [Copyright Alert System] expire and instead adopt" these stricter rules. The system expired last week.