Skip to main content

How to keep web copyright infringers honest

By Jill Lesser, Special to CNN
July 17, 2012 -- Updated 2311 GMT (0711 HKT)
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
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT