Warner Bros. fines file-sharers, even without six strikes

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Just because your Internet service provider doesn’t participate in “six strikes” antipiracy measures doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for copyright infringement.

Warner Bros. is apparently sending notices to people suspected of copyright infringement, even if their ISPs aren’t in on the entertainment industry’s Copyright Alert System, as TorrentFreak reports. Unlike the alert system’s relatively benign warnings, these notices include a link to an “automated settlement system,” where users can pay $20 per infringement to make any potential legal issues go away.

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“The notices give consumers an opportunity to settle the identified infringement for a very nominal sum of $20 per title infringed—not as a measure of damage, but as a concrete reminder that our content has value and as a discouragement of future unauthorized activity,” Warner Bros. told TorrentFreak. The company has been working with a third party, Digital Rights Corp., on the collection scheme.

This antipiracy measure has a little more sting to it than the Copyright Alert System, informally known as “six strikes.” Under the six strikes system, file sharers receive a series of warnings from their service providers. Starting with the fifth or sixth warning, service providers may require users to listen to a lecture or watch a video about copyright infringement, and may also temporarily suspend or slow down Internet access.

However, at no point does this system require users to pay for their transgressions. Although repeat offenders could be vulnerable to copyright lawsuits, so far no one’s been sued based on the six strikes program. (At least one rights holder has attempted to file a lawsuit against a Verizon subscriber, but Verizon has refused to hand over that user’s contact information.)

By seeking fines, Warner Bros. may be putting pressure on more ISPs to participate in the Copyright Alert System proper. At the moment, five major providers are participating, including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. ISPs who aren’t participating include Charter, CenturyLink and Cox.

Users, meanwhile, should keep in mind that Warner’s demands for payment amount to little more than fishing expeditions. As TorrentFreak points out, rights holders don’t necessarily know the identities of the people to whom they’re sending letters, so there may be no consequence to ignoring a settlement offer. Paying up could actually be a bad move, because any personal or contact information included with the payment could lead to further shakedowns.

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