The movie, TV and music industries have a brand new weapon in the fight against digital piracy. It’s called The Copyright Alert System and it’s online now, ready to come down on anyone caught sharing illegally.
Here’s how it works. A studio or artist finds their product on a file sharing server. They notify the Internet Service Provider (ISP) who serves the uploader and the ISP then sends out a warning notice.
The new CAS let’s you have six strikes before you’re out. Then, your service provider (for example, your cable company) can take action by slowing down your internet speed or forcing you to a landing page that requires a chat to remove.
ArsTechnica posted examples of the warning letters as well as their concerns about the process.
First off, the initial warning appears while you’re online. It says an email will be sent to your cable email address but that doesn’t mean everyone will see it. I have a Cox Cable email address that I haven’t used in ten years. If that’s the address they use to contact me, I won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late.
(If you do get hit with six strikes, you can pay $35 to file an appeal.)
Next, there’s the language in these warnings. They refer to “improper” sharing. What does that mean?
What bothers me most about the entire system is that it’s so one-sided and firm, there’s no room for mistakes — and there will be mistakes.
The site has an interesting quote from Derek Bambauer, a tech law professor at the University of Arizona:
“Six strikes is fundamentally flawed. Part of the reason is that users were never at the table: the bargaining parties were content owners and ISPs. And ISPs have very limited incentives to defend free speech or protect against mistakes—especially if all of their major competitors are in the system, too. No way to vote against the system with your feet.”
Here’s my problem. I agree that a license holder has a right to protect their property from theft. Bootleggers should not be allowed to produce and sell pirated copies of a brand new DVD. I see the financial harm. I don’t see the harm when a Supernatural fan uploads a copy of an episode so another fan in the UK can watch it this week instead of in a month from now if ever. TV fans don’t download episodes because they’re trying to avoid paying cable fees or skip the commercials or cheat the network out of a ratings point. They do it because they genuinely enjoy the show and they want to see this week’s episode. Studios should embrace that, not stomp on it.
The same goes for music. If I’ve never heard a song by Adele, I’m not going to buy her CD. But if my friend shares an MP3 of Skyfall with me I might like it so much I’ll buy the whole album on iTunes.
The irony is, as marketers, we’re always asking people to share our words, our deals, our products with their friends and family. How is sharing a digital music, movie or TV file any different?
This kind of warning system is only going to hurt the little guy, it’s not going to stop piracy experts from doing what they do. Because of that, the whole system feels like a waste of time and money.
What do you think? Is the Copyright Alert System a good thing, a bad thing or something that still needs tweaking to work properly?