Recently, a group of major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other major stakeholders (such as the RIAA, Sony, Disney, Warner Bros. etc.), announced that they would implement a “Six Strikes” system of copyright alerts and measures to reduce online piracy and copyright infringement. The ISPs that signed up include Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&T.
Basically, the system sends a series of up to six increasingly severe copyright alerts to account holders who are accused of copyright infringement. The first several alerts are essentially warnings, while the last few alerts lead to mitigation measures whereas the ISP would limit download speed, provide copyright reeducation, or completely deny access altogether. Essentially, if you (the consumer) continue to download illegal content, and your ISP warns you to stop, then you could technically lose your access to the Internet.
It is unclear why ISPs agreed to this system, as they are now required to police their own networks. While copyright owners have longed for such a plan, ISPs have not. After all, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act already provides some protections for ISPs against liability. Many commentators have noted that governmental pressures or increasing bandwidth issues may have led ISPs to agree to the system.
The Six Strikes system is primarily aimed at the small handful of very active pirates, such as those that take up tons of bandwidth and help infringe upon large numbers of copyrighted works. For the most part, this Six Strikes system has no impact on the average consumer. If you are a casual downloader, you will likely not feel the effects.
Many critics argue that the system is flawed, and that it does little to actually deter or prevent copyright infringement. Furthermore, the system is merely an agreement by the ISPs. It is not law and lacks legal support, as it may be based too heavily on unverified and unproven allegations by copyright holders. On the other hand, this system allows for a way to slow Internet piracy without government intervention. Online piracy costs copyright owners and the U.S. economy billions of dollars in losses every year, and this may be a step towards reducing such prevalent Internet piracy.