Bandwidth-Throttling Copyright Enforcement System Launches Across U.S.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 25 2013 1:55 PM

Bandwidth-Throttling Copyright Enforcement System Launches Across U.S.

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Policing Internet piracy just got a lot easier, thanks to the new "six strikes" system.

Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images

For months, American BitTorrent users have no doubt been dreading this day. The new “Copyright Alert System” is finally launching across all of the major Internet providers—which could result in your bandwidth getting throttled if it is suspected you are downloading pirated content.

The organization coordinating the Hollywood-backed scheme, the Center for Copyright Information, confirmed in a blog post this morning that “the implementation phase of the Copyright Alert System” was beginning today. This follows a report last week that AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon were set to launch the controversial program. A source close to the initiative told me that all of these providers were indeed “beginning their [copyright enforcement] systems this week."

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The CAS was reported last year but the system’s introduction was delayed, in part due to “unexpected factors largely stemming from Hurricane Sandy.” The system will monitor and collect the IP addresses of computers apparently downloading and sharing copyrighted content illegally, and these users will then be flagged to the Internet providers as part of a “six strikes” program. If you are accused of downloading the latest box office smash illicitly by a BitTorrent website, for instance, you will receive “educational notices” designed to politely warn you that you have misbehaved. If you ignore the notices, the action will get more severe: Your internet browsing might be temporarily blocked or your bandwidth throttled. The CCI has put together a short video to explain how it will work, which is worth watching if you can get past the terrible jazzy soundtrack:

Given that there are an estimated 150 million people using BitTorrent websites to download content, the CAS could impact quite a lot of Americans once it is in full swing. A report earlier this month suggested that even FBI employees were at it, illegally downloading shows like Homeland and Dexter from their law enforcement computers. Of course, more savvy downloaders, feds or otherwise, will find ways around the system entirely. There are plenty of ways to mask IP addresses, some of which are addressed in a DailyDot article today bluntly titled: “How to Avoid Triggering the New Copyright Alert System.”

Opponents say the system could lead to people being wrongly accused of downloading illicit content. CIS counters that if you receive an alert that you believe is false, you can challenge it—however, you’ll first have to fork out a $35 “filing fee.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ryan Gallagher is a journalist who reports on surveillance, security, and civil liberties.

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