It is about to get a bit more difficult to illegally download TV shows, movies or music online.
A new alert system, rolling out over the next two months, will repeatedly warn and possibly punish people violating digital copyrights. The Copyright Alert System was announced last July and has been four years in the making.
If you use AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, or Verizon as your Internet service provider, you could receive the first of one of these notes starting in the next two months.
The Internet provider is delivering the message, but the legwork is being done by the copyright owners, which will monitor peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent.
They use a service called MarkMonitor, which uses a combination of people and automated systems to spot illegal downloading. It will collect the IP addresses of offenders, but no personal information. The IP addresses are turned over to the Internet providers, which will match up the address with the right customer and send the notification.
The warning system is described as a graduated response. First the Internet provider will let the customer know that their Internet connection is being used do download content illegally. The note will include information to steer them away from their life of crime, including tips on how they can download content legally.
There will also be tips on securing Internet connections, just in case you were unaware that your neighbor was downloading season three of "Dexter" using your unprotected wireless network.
"The progressive series of alerts is designed to make consumers aware of activity that has occurred using their Internet accounts, educate them on how they can prevent such activity from happening again," the CCI said in its announcement today.
After the educational phase, the customers will be asked to acknowledge that they received the warning. If they continue to download content illegally, the alerts will threaten mild punishments, such as forcing the copyright violator to read "educational materials," or throttling their Internet connection so that it is slow, making it harder to download large files.
Today's announcement claims that terminating the Internet service is not one of the options.
If a customer feels they are being wrongly accused, they can ask for a review, which will cost them $35 according to the Verge.
The entire system will be overseen by an organization called the Center for Copyright Information, which includes content owners, such as the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America, as well as individual members including Disney, Sony Pictures, Fox, EMI and Universal.
Each ISP will have a slightly different version of the system.