Music, movie industry to warn copyright infringers
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After five or six "strikes,'' however, the person won't face any repercussions under the program and is likely to be ignored. It's unclear whether such repeat offenders would be more likely at that point to face an expensive lawsuit.
The number of Internet users subject to the new system is a sizeable chunk of the US population. Verizon and AT&T alone supply more than 23 million customers.
For the recording industry, which blames online piracy for contributing to a dramatic drop in profits and sales during the past decade, the new alert system is a better alternative than lawsuits. In December 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America announced it had discontinued that practice _ which had been deeply unpopular with the American public _ and would begin working with the Internet providers on the alert system instead.
"We think there is a positive impact of programs like this, and that they can put money in the pocket of artists and labels,'' said Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the RIAA.
The Motion Picture Association of America estimates some 29 million people have downloaded or watched unauthorized movies or TV shows online, mostly using technology such as BitTorrent, a popular peer-to-peer protocol. Like its counterparts in the music industry, the MPAA says it believes people will stop when they understand it's illegal and are redirected to legal ways of paying for downloads.
The alert system "will help ensure an Internet that works for everyone by alerting families of illegal activity that has occurred over peer-to-peer networks using their Internet accounts and educate them on how they can prevent such activity from happening again,'' Michael O'Leary, an executive for the MPAA, said in a statement Tuesday.
A primary question is whether the system will generate a significant number of "false positives,'' or cases in which people are accused of sharing illegal content but are not. One scenario is if a person doesn't encrypt their wireless connection, leaving it open to a neighbor or malicious hacker that swaps illegal files. Another example might be if a person uploads a "mashup'' of songs or brief scenes from a movie _ content that wouldn't necessarily violate the law but could get flagged by the system.