Today, after over two years of periodic rumors and reports that something like this was in the works, major ISPs joined RIAA and MPAA in announcing an agreement to cooperate on a system of escalating "copyright alerts" to suspected infringers.
Today's agreement has the potential to be an important educational vehicle that will help reduce peer-to-peer online copyright infringement. Whether it will meet that promise or instead will undermine the rights of Internet users will depend on how it is implemented.
By focusing on alerting and informing Internet subscribers about illegal downloading associated with their accounts, the agreement appears to put the emphasis on educating Internet users rather than punishing them. There are multiple rounds of alerts, and ISPs retain substantial discretion to determine when and how to respond if alerts are repeatedly ignored. There are also safeguards intended to minimize the risk of mistakes. This kind of voluntary, notification-centric approach sidesteps many of the serious concerns that would be raised by government mandates, the adoption of new snooping or filtering technologies, or a draconian "three strikes" approach centered on disconnecting Internet users.
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