What is the Copyright Alert System?

The Copyright Alert System (CAS), which has been in the works for around two years, went into effect at the end of February as an effort by internet service providers (ISP) to curb online piracy.Copyright Alert System

We pay a lot of attention to digital music and online piracy here on the Sage Audio mastering blog. After all, it’s hard enough for many independent artists to make a living as it is, and online piracy can make it even more difficult for those trying to sell their music online.

CAS is designed to appeal directly to consumers downloading music, movies and games illegally rather than going after those posting the content. However, instead of imposing legal actions or fines on the consumers, the goal of the program is to educate consumers about the effects of piracy.

The measure was implemented by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), which is backed by five ISP groups as well as copyright holders and other entities. The five ISP members are: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon. The measure also is backed by the White House, though it contains no government control or intervention.

How CAS Works

When a consumer has illegally downloaded music, movies or games, an entertainment company will notify the ISP of the user, and the ISP will send a notice to the customer about the consequences of downloading pirated material. The “Six Strike” name comes from the fact that if an ISP sends six notices, it will have the option to suspend service to the user.

It should be noted that all participation by ISP members is voluntary, as are the actions taken when a customer allegedly pirates material. The plan offers no protection for consumers that are sued by copyright owners.

CAS does not apply to material shared online in ways other than downloading, such as through email attachments or cloud sharing services such as Dropbox.

“We hope this cooperative, multi-stakeholder approach will serve as a model for addressing important issues facing all who participate in the digital entertainment ecosystem,” said CCI Executive Director Jill Lesser in a blog post the day the program was implemented. “From content creators and owners to distributors to consumers, we all benefit from a better understanding of the choices available and the rights and responsibilities that come with using digital content, thereby helping to drive investment in content creation and innovative services that offer exciting ways to enjoy music, video and all digital content.”

Will CAS Work?

While we are certainly in favor of efforts to curb piracy here on the Sage Audio mastering blog, it will remain to be seen if CAS has any effect on the practice. It is a good sign that groups from many different industries are behind the measure, though its effectiveness will depend in part upon what extent the ISP companies actual enforce the policy. At least one of the companies (Verizon) has stated in the past that it has no intention of disconnecting the service of any user.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and independent artists particularly should celebrate a win, however small it may be.