Skip to main content

How to keep web copyright infringers honest

By Jill Lesser, Special to CNN
updated 7:11 PM EDT, Tue July 17, 2012
Jill Lesser says the new Center for Copyright Information intends to educate consumers about what is and isn't infringement
Jill Lesser says the new Center for Copyright Information intends to educate consumers about what is and isn't infringement
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jill Lesser: Earlier op-ed imputed sinister intent to a new Copyright Alert System; there is none.
  • She says the coalition of ISP's, media companies wants to deter copyright infringers
  • She says it won't share your personal info, it's trying to educate consumers
  • Lesser: Aim is to let consumers know what is OK and not OK to just take from the internet

Editor's note: Jill Lesser is the Executive Director of the Center for Copyright Information.

(CNN) -- Recently an op-ed by Douglas Rushkoff took up the issue of the creation of the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), a coalition charged with implementing the Copyright Alert System, a graduated response framework to copyright infringement. As the executive director of the Center, I would like to respond to several concerns that article raised about how the program will work and its goals

For background, the Copyright Alert System aims to inform consumers of inadvertent or purposeful unauthorized distribution of content over peer-to-peer networks and to help consumers find legal ways to obtain, share and enjoy movies and music protected by copyright.

The program represents an unprecedented and voluntary partnership between leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) -- AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon -- and U.S. content creators -- represented by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America -- with advice from leading consumer advocates. Gigi Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge and Marsali Hancock, president, iKeepSafe.org, sit on our advisory board, to name just two.

This system reflects a new reality: The Internet has forever changed how content is consumed, making content easy to find, use and experience.

Our work at CCI is about educating consumers about how to legally and ethically enjoy the movies and music they love. As Rushkoff says: "The longer term solution would be to develop an appropriate social contract: conducting ourselves online under the same civilized behavioral norms that keep us from, say, stealing stuff from one another's homes even though we could probably get away with it."

It's beyond this premise that I take issue with Rushkoff's article.

The article's headline: "Will your Internet provider be spying on you?" indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the program and how it works; it suggests that ISPs would engage in an activity anathema to their consumers to protect copyright. Now that doesn't sound like the ISPs that I know.

Opinion: Will your Internet provider be spying on you?

The role of the ISPs in the new Copyright Alert System will be to pass on notices sent by copyright holders to those subscribers whose Internet protocol addresses (strings of numbers that mean little to most people ) have been associated with allegedly illegal file sharing. As they have done for years, content owners will use technical methodologies to identify alleged infringements over peer-to-peer networks and will request that notices of such alleged infringement be passed on to subscribers by the participating ISPs.

To be clear: No personal information at all, including the identity of the subscriber, will be shared with the content owners by the ISPs. What the ISPs will do, in recognition of the importance of copyright protection generally, is to then provide their subscribers with education and information about what not to do and how to get content in the right way.

The alerts will be non-punitive -- 4-6 in total, depending on the ISP -- but progressive in scale. If the activity stops, the alerts stop. Initial alerts will focus on making the consumer aware of the activity and highlighting legal ways to enjoy content.

The alerts are designed with particular attention to key groups -- parents of teens, for example -- to provide the most helpful and actionable information possible. Alerts that require acknowledgment of receipt of the alert follow and -- in some cases -- the system also includes mitigation measures, which vary between ISPs. These may include temporary reduction of Internet speed or redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP or reviews educational information.

The CAS will only address activity over to peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent -- not streaming video or other general online content. The system is based on consumers' "right to know" when their Internet account is being used for illegal file sharing through peer-to-peer networks, or if their own online activity infringes on copyrights -- inadvertently or otherwise -- so that they can correct that activity.

The alert system is similar to warnings and alerts in place for stolen credit cards. The unfortunate reality of malware and other potential dangers on peer-to-peer programs makes this service to subscribers particularly important.

Going beyond the nuts and bolts of the program, the Center for Copyright Information's primary goal is educational. The program is designed to provide non-punitive tools that will help inform consumers about how to legally enjoy digital copyrighted content and avoid illegal peer-to-peer networks, through a system based on information and deterrence.

As Rushkoff points out, "in many cases the Internet subscriber might have no knowledge of the infraction" and he goes on to describe how a houseguest might share illegal content without the Internet subscriber's knowledge. But that's exactly the point. Many subscribers, particularly parents or caregivers, are not aware that their accounts are being used to distribute illegal -- and sometimes harmful -- content through peer-to-peer networks.

That ignorance doesn't make it acceptable. What we need to do is help subscribers better understand what they can and cannot do and help them get the compelling and entertaining movies and music from the constantly expanding collection of legal services now in the marketplace.

With methods for sharing content constantly evolving, the Copyright Alert System is designed to address an information gap. From homeowners who want to make sure their wireless networks are secure to parents concerned about their children's activity on the internet, information and tools can help users better consume content. In the coming months, we are eager to share our effort to close this information gap.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jill Lesser.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT