Verizon will throttle repeat offenders in anti-piracy effort

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Verizon home Internet subscribers may get slapped with slower speeds for downloading too much pirated content and ignoring warnings to stop.

The company revealed its anti-piracy plans during a panel discussion in New York, TorrentFreak reports. The plans are part of a joint effort by Internet service providers and media companies, known as the Copyright Alert System, to warn and in some cases punish repeat offenders.

Under Verizon's approach, users suspected of copyright infringement first receive notifications by e-mail, telling them their accounts have been flagged. After two of those warnings, users then see a pop-up when they access the Internet, requiring them to confirm that they've read the message.

If infringement continues beyond the fourth warning, Verizon says it will significantly reduce the user's download speeds. However, the throttling is only temporary; speeds should go back to normal after a few days. Under the Copyright Alert System, subscribers who believe they're innocent can call for an independent review in exchange for a $35 filing fee.

Other ISPs plan campaigns

So far, few ISPs have been forthcoming about how they'll enforce the Copyright Alert System. When I reached out to AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon for details last month, only Time Warner provided answers.

Time Warner's system will be similar to Verizon's through the first four warnings. But instead of throttling repeat offenders, the company will disconnect users until they call Time Warner. “The suspension is just to get you to pick up the phone so you can listen to us preach about copyright infringement,” spokesperson Alex Dudley told me at the time.

AT&T's approach, meanwhile, has been outlined in leaked training documents. The documents claim that with the fourth and fifth warnings, users who try to reach certain Websites will instead be rerouted to an educational page, where they'll have to take a brief tutorial on on copyright laws.

AT&T's documents also note that after the fifth warning, content owners can get a court order to identify repeat offenders, and may take legal action. That's the case with all ISPs who participate in the Copyright Alert System.

Whether rights holders will actually go that far remains unclear, but they'd have a stronger case in court with proof that users ignored a series of warnings. Still, Dudley told me the whole point of the Copyright Alert System is to educate users and avoid that situation, and keep in mind that the music industry stopped suing individual file-sharers years ago.

The Center for Copyright Information, which heads the joint effort, is planning to invite other ISPs to sign on, Jill Lesser, the Center's executive director, said at the panel discussion. The group originally worked with only large providers to make an agreement easier, but now it looks like smaller ones could be next.

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