Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

Students using ComputerIn case you haven’t heard about it, after months of missteps the “Copyright Alert System” has finally launched. It is the latest attempt to deter illegal downloads of music and movies. The system has been described as an elaborate combination of surveillance, warnings, punishments, and education and is being implemented by most Internet service providers (ISPs). The ISPs supporting the efforts of the recording and film industries include AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.

The theory is this: if you’re caught downloading illegal music or TV shows, you may get a letter from your ISP that says your illegal activity has been caught. It is being jokingly referred to as the “Six Strikes System” because offenders can receive as many as six actions, beginning with a warning, followed by redirected to an educational video (can anyone say “Clockwork Orange”?) and ultimately slowing your Internet speed. People who continue will be forced to pay $35 to appeal the decision.

Will this deter illegal downloads? If history is any indication, it won’t because there are several unresolved issues. The first issue is how will this affect downloading from a public Wi-Fi spot. The second issue is how much of a deterrent it is to have your Internet slow down for a few days. Third, there are ways to hide or change your IP address. And lastly, let’s not forget the public-relations fiasco that occurred when the music industry brought lawsuits against mothers and small children, charged exorbitant penalties, and had some overturned.

The good news is that, most of those music peer-to-peer networks have been shut down, you can buy music today that doesn’t have the restrictions previously imposed for a limited number of devices, and the price for downloading has become so cheap that the issue has become much smaller.

So unlike the original intention which was to reduce music downloads, this may be the first step to try to address illegal downloads of movies. While illegal music downloads are decreasing, illegal movie downloads are on the rise.  This came to everyone’s attention a few years ago after  the highly publicized 25,000 downloads of the “Hurt Locker”.

What do you think? Is the fear of getting your hand slapped going to change what you download

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Howard Fenton is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.