On May 28, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) released a report on the recently launched Copyright Alert System (CAS). The CAS is a tiered notice and response system aimed at reducing copyright infringement over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. The CAS is an innovative, comprehensive, voluntary collaboration between Internet service providers (ISPs) and copyright holders which aims to educate consumers and to empower content owners to protect their intellectual property by fighting online piracy.
Content companies including movie studios, television program producers, and the recording industry are constantly creating new ways to meet consumer demands by providing easy and affordable access to content online. In order for these new platforms and technologies to be successful, the firms must be confident that the works made available online will not be degraded in value by unauthorized online behaviors or outright stolen by pirates.
Content owners today have tools to combat online piracy, but infringing behavior is still rampant, particularly among P2P networks. The CAS is an online IP enforcement mechanism that empowers content owners to enforce their IP rights against unauthorized account holders in P2P networks. The CAS can be used as an alternative to the DMCA’s notice and take-down procedure. Reports received from certain content owners (or their authorized agents) regarding possible copyright infringement by file-sharing programs or P2P networks will go through the new Copyright Alert System. Reports from other owners (or their authorized agents) that do not involve file-sharing program copyright infringement allegations will continue to be sent through the standard DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) response system.
The CAS program allows content owners to generate notices of alleged copyright infringement by identifying the IP address associated with the potentially infringing behavior. The content owner then notifies his or her ISP of the IP address, which can be identified through use of publicly available IP address data. The ISP then delivers a “Copyright Alert” to the P2P account holder(s) that content owners have identified as engaging in unauthorized uses of content. ISPs do not share any personally identifiable information about their subscribers with content owners or CCI. Not all notices to ISPs result in alerts, because the system only allows content owners to send one Copyright Alert in a seven-day period. Alerts to consumers provide a grace period so that account holders and authorized users can investigate and correct their behavior to stop improper uses of an account. If an account holder does not believe its behavior is unauthorized, it can challenge the alert with the American Arbitration Association (AAA). The graphic below, included in CCI’s report, illustrates the alert generation and delivery process.
The CAS was launched in February 2013, and it has already identified many potentially infringing behaviors online. The just-released CCI report reviews data collected from the first ten months of the CAS’ operation. CCI reports that 1.3 million Copyright Alerts were sent to over 700,000 customer accounts, and over 2 million notices of alleged infringement were sent to ISPs in only the first 10 months of the program. No invalid notice or false positives have been reported. More than 70% of those alerts generated were at the initial educational stages, and less than 3% of the alerts were sent during the final mitigation phase. Account holders who received alerts filed only 265 requests for review with the AAA—this amounts to requests for review of just 0.02% of all alerts sent to participating ISPs’ account holders.
Even though the CAS has only been running for a short time, it seems to be off to a good start. The system already appears to be both accurate – yielding no false positives –and necessary –given the high number of unauthorized uses identified. Also, there is already evidence that account holders that receive an alert do not engage in further P2P infringement, as the chart from the CCI report below shows.
The CAS has also provided useful data on consumers’ understanding of online piracy and behaviors online. The majority of users surveyed reported that they would stop engaging in copyright infringement immediately upon receiving an alert and most (62%) reported that they believe it is never acceptable to engage in infringing activity. However, a majority of respondents expressed uncertainty of what constitutes infringing behavior: 65% of the respondents agreed that it would be helpful if more resources were available that make clear what content sources and online activities are and are not legal.
Over the next few months the Center for Copyright Information plans to analyze operational data to track the impact of the Copyright Alert System on user behavior and consumers’ attitudes towards copyright infringement. These efforts, in conjunction with the continued operation of the CAS, will help educate enforcement entities and consumers on the best ways to curb online piracy. Hopefully, the CAS and CCI’s educational efforts will encourage consumers to embrace authorized sources of legal and licensed content, decrease online piracy, and protect the rights of content owners online.
PS – Over the past year, the Free State Foundation has been engaged in an important educational effort of its own to enhance the public’s understanding of intellectual property rights. In a series of what presently constitutes six “Perspectives from FSF Scholars” papers, Free State Foundation President Randolph May and Adjunct Senior Fellow Seth Cooper have been addressing foundational principles of intellectual property. These scholarly papers further the public’s understanding of the nature of IP rights and they explain why our Founders thought it was important for the Constitution and our laws to protect IP.
The six papers, with links, are here:
Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, "The Constitutional Foundations of Intellectual Property," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 8, No. 13 (2013).
Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, "Reasserting the Property Rights Source of IP," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 8, No. 17 (2013).
Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, "Literary Property: Copyright's Constitutional History and Its Meaning for Today," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 8, No. 19 (2013).
Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, "The Constitution’s Approach to Copyright: Anti- Monopoly, Pro-Intellectual Property Rights,” Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 8, No. 20 (2013).
Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, "The 'Reason and Nature' of Intellectual Property: Copyright and Patent in The Federalist Papers," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 9, No. 4 (2014).
Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, “Constitutional Foundations of Copyright and Patent in the First Congress,” Vol. 9, No. 18 (2014).