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What you need to know about the Copyright Alert System

Consumer Reports News: March 04, 2013 03:38 PM

Last week the content-creating industry launched a new effort aimed at preventing copyright infringement: the Copyright Alert System—CAS, also called "six strikes." It's a warning system intended to curb illegal downloads of music, movies, and other content by consumers over peer-to-peer networks. Instead of imposing heavy fines or arresting egregious downloaders, ISPs will warn them (up to six times), attempt to educate them, and then take corrective measures.

Here are the basics:

What is it? The CAS is being implemented by film and recording industry representatives, together with the support of major ISPs (Internet service providers). Its goal is to "educate consumers about the importance of copyright protection and help them find better ways to enjoy digital content," according to the Center for Copyright Information (CII, a trade group that includes artists and content creators as well as ISPs).

How does it work? Content owners (such as musicians and moviemakers) notify an ISP if they find their protected content is being shared by that ISP's subscriber without permission. Infringers are identified by their unique IP addresses. The ISP then sends a warning, the so-called Copyright Alert, to the suspected downloader.

If an ISP's subscriber continues downloading illegally, a series of alerts is sent. At that point, an ISP might temporarily reduce the subscriber's Internet speed, downgrade the subscriber's service, or redirect to a landing page, effectively blocking Web usage.

Who will it affect? Subscribers of the five participating ISPs are subject to the CAS: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. Each ISP has a different plan for enforcement, so you should contact yours directly to find out what may happen if you're identified as an illegal downloader.

Note that if your Wi-Fi network is unprotected by a password, you are held responsible for any illegal downloading over your network, even if it's not done by you.

Can you fight back? Yes: If you've received multiple alerts and have arrived at what the CII calls the "mitigation stage"—when your ISP has begun to take corrective measures—you can file for an independent review, which is conducted by the American Arbitration Association.

You must file through your ISP within 14 days of receiving a Mitigation Alert, and there's a $35 fee for the review. Any steps your ISP has taken to reduce your service are then suspended until the review is complete. If the AAA determines that you're in the right, the fee is refunded and alerts are removed from your account.

Carol Mangis

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