Few months have been passed from the launch (in US) of a new Program which is supposed to be a strong remedy to the online piracy: ladies and gentlemen I’m glad (?) to introduce you CAS (Copyright Alert System). There is no doubt that CAS will impact a huge portion of US internet users. Waiting for its introduction also in the European area, let’s take a look at the program which could greatly affect our way to use internet.
CAS was created by MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) featuring RIAA(Recording Industry of America) with the assistance of five of the largest Internet Providers actually on the market.
CAS’ creators have expressed their scope to be “educational” rather than “punitive”; on the contrary the critics (mostly lawyers) have argued that this new tool to combat online piracy will do more harm than good: “It will hurt small businesses that provide open wireless network” or “It could lead to litigation” are their most relevant comments.
To have an opinion about this Program it’s absolutely necessary understating how it works.
First, individuals caught downloading (by CAS) copyrighted content illegally, will be sent an email informing that they have been caught (how does it possible that CAS is in possession of your email? Big media lobbying groups like the RIAA and MPAA (“content partners”) keep an eye on P2P file-sharing networks, identify users who are being naughty, and then pass that information on to the ISPs which inform CAS) . If the users keep downloading careless of the received alerts (a third or fourth time), the ISP will redirect their browser to a webpage where they must acknowledge they have received three/four alerts. What if a caught infringer is a “downloading maniac” and continues gathering content for his own use as well as for all his family and all his neighborhood friends’ enjoyment?
After having been caught for the fifth or sixth times, his internet connection will be slowed considerably for several days (mitigation measure). In the remote event that, despite the foregoing punishment, our indefatigable downloader don’t stop carrying on his mission, what’s going to happen? In theory, content Owners could obtain (alleged) violator personal data by approaching the ISP with a subpoena, and then suit him.
After having been placed in front of questions related to legal issues about personal data protection as well as privacy rights, CAS’ Executive Director has assured that CAS do not intend to provide content Owners with internet users personal info; he has pointed out the educational scope of the measures adopted. He also has focused the fact that the users who believe they have been mistakenly targeted with mitigation measures, will be put in the position of being allowed to file an independent review for the “convenient ” amount of $ 35,00. I totally agree with the opinion of many American colleagues who consider this procedure to be a private extra-legal process with real consequences but without the balance and the protections of a real judicial process.
As expected, many other legal problems are been created by this Program: first, it seems CAS is launching the message “Be careful, you’re responsible for everything that happens in your network (message directed at Bar’s owners or small businesses’ entrepreneurs, for instance)”; second they say their Program is educational not punitive, but slowing internet connection must considered an heavy punishment as internet has become a fundamental service in our age.
I’m not able to predict how CAS life is going to evolve but, for sure, many lawsuits will occur!
By Michele Ambrogio