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“This is a sensible approach to the problem of online-content theft and, importantly, one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers."
—-Randal S. Milch, Verizon

ISPS, ENTERTAINMENT COMPANIES
DEAL WITH DIGITAL PIRACY

Adopt Uniform Procedure for Notifying Customers About Repeated Instances of Digital Copyright Infringement
UMD’s Jim Urie finally got his wish with his Music Rights Now! “call to action.”

After enlisting his fellow music industryites in a massive e-mail campaign, Urie’s efforts resulted in today’s deal, announced in Washington, with the leading ISPs—AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast Verizon and Time Warner Cable. They have pacted with the MPAA, RIAA and an organization representing independent filmmakers for a uniform procedure that will notify customers of digital copyright infringement.

The new procedure, which is expected to go into effect early next year, is a “graduated response” which establishes a series of six warnings that an ISP can send a customer whose account shows signs of infringing activity.

These warnings start with simple e-mail notifications to a set of “mitigation measures,” like slowed connections or a block from web surfing altogether. As the steps progress, a user must acknowledge that he understands the notice, and the user can also contest the complaint.

“This is a sensible approach to the problem of online-content theft and, importantly, one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers,” said Verizon VP and General Counsel Randal S. Milch. “We hope that effort—designed to notify and educate customers, not to penalize them—will set a reasonable standard for both copyright owners and ISP’s to follow, while informing customers about copyright laws and encouraging them to get content from the many legal sources that exist.”

The agreement also sets up a Center for Copyright Information to monitor the alert system and deal with infringement issues. The center is expected to have a board made up of representatives of both the media companies and ISPs.

While the system establishes guidelines for the ISPs in how they contact their customers, it does not replace the existing legal framework for online copyright infringement established by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, allows ISP’s to shut down an infringing Web site if directed by a copyright holder.

The music and film industries have had mixed success recently with their campaigns to step up enforcement and legislation for copyright infringement.

Last year, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security began seizing web domains suspected of piracy and counterfeiting. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act is a bill that would give the U.S. attorney general additional powers to pursue infringing web sites, stalled in Congress last year, but a modified version of it, the Protect IP Act, has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a vote.

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