Six Strikes and You’re Out–New ISP Policy Targets Downloads of Copyrighted Material

At the end of the month a new ISP policy is coming into effect that aims to stop downloads of copyrighted content. Here’s what you need to know.

Last June the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) got together and created the Center for Copyright Information (CCI). If that isn’t enough acronyms for you, there is also a slew of Internet service providers listed below who jumped onboard the CCI voluntarily signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The purpose of the CCI was to create a network for tracking copyright infringements and deploying heavy-handed notifications to those flagged by the system, in an effort to decrease piracy.

The system this organization created is called the Copyright Alert System (CAS), and it operates using a system of graduated responses. The first few offenses result in a notification of the offense, and continue to gain severity with each recurring infraction. Enforcement is being done at the provider level by five of the largest telecommunication internet providers in the U.S.

In lieu of this new policy going into effect, the RIAA has flooded Google with about 500,000 requests per week. In just the past month alone the RIAA has sent over 1.6 million requests, which makes up 20% of its all time total amount of requests. This is likely a tactic to narrow down possible sources for downloading copyright material, and lead users to legitimately paid distributors instead.


Who does this affect?

Currently, this new policy only has a direct effect on internet users in the United States, and only those subscribed to one of the ISP’s that made an agreement with the CCI. This program goes live November 28, 2012 — that’s right, just a few days from now.

The ISP’s instating the “Six Strikes” program are:

  • Comcast
  • Verizon
  • Time Warner
  • AT&T
  • Cablevision

How does this affect me?

If you download copyrighted material, whether deliberately or ignorantly, you can receive a one strike against you. Strikes can only be accumulated once per week, and reset if no further infringements are made within a years time. If you went on a crazy torrent frenzy for a whole week, the worst case is you receive one notification of infringement for all materials downloaded cumulatively.

One problem is that even if you don’t download copyrighted material, there are a lot of false positives. For example, there are plenty of cases where users have reason for Fair Use, or the data downloaded is covered under the GPL and is not actually infringing.  For those cases, there’s an appeal process to remove strikes from your record, however it requires a $35 fee that is only refunded if the appeal is approved by a third-party arbitration company.

What happens when you accumulate six strikes?

Each ISP is handling the final punishment a little differently, though none of them are willing terminate user accounts. Verizon is said to throttle the internet connection speed for several days. Time Warner will block access to a variety of popular websites. AT&T will block website access until customers complete an educational tutorial. Comcast and Cablevision haven’t released the specifics on their plans yet. However each have made it clear that the respective copyright holders are open to pursue lawsuits against users after the 5th strike.


Overall the Six Strikes policy is going to increase costs and frustrate users, but it’s a better pill to swallow than SOPA or PIPA would have been. Because the ISP has a MoU agreement rather than legislation, the ISP has a lot more power to do what it wants and doesn’t have to abide by all of the requests made by a copyright holder. With that said,  if you are someone that downloads copyrighted content now is a good time to look into a VPN or anonymous network such as I2P. Alternatively, if available, you could just change ISP’s. For those of us that buy all of our content legitimately, let’s just hope we don’t get falsely flagged and have to deal with arbitration.




  1. gpzbc

    November 21, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Will they notify us with each strike?

    • Austin Krause

      November 21, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Yup, that is part of the new strategy. I never thought I’d be saying this but It’s really reasonable on the part of the MPAA and RIAA.

      Their idea is that the notifications of each strike should be enough to deter further downloads of copyright material. And you can only receive a maximum of one per week.

      But, we’ll see how this plays out. The problem is that the MPAA and RIAA have a really bad track record. They’ll attack anything that moves, and the CEO of the MPAA was a Senator that strongly supported the SOPA bill, his name was Chris Dodd. He worked as a lobbyist despite repeatedly insisting he would never do so. The man is a huge liar. Fortunately the ISP still hold all the power in this situation, so it will be between them and the CCI to get an accurate flagging system up for copyrighted material.

      • gpzbc

        November 21, 2012 at 11:17 am

        Thank you.

  2. Henry Barnett

    November 22, 2012 at 10:01 am

    So to be clear: the MPAA and the RIAA have made the CCI. with a MOU. But they call it a CAS and it only works in the US. If you score 6 your ISP will act. (Not sure how yet). But it’s better than SOPA or PIPA. You can evade this by using a VPN or I2P. Think that’s it. H

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