United States' internet users have their first taste of the delayed six-strikes Copyright Alert System after it launched officially yesterday, although ISPs have yet to explain to customers how the system will be implemented.
MarkMonitor, a Thomson Reuters-owned company, is in charge of hunting down online file sharers and issuing notices to them.
The company's analysts participate in open, non-encrypted P2P networks, identifying copyrighted works being shared and ISP customers engaging in uploading and downloading of material. (pdf)
The first four infringement notices are termed "educational alerts" and can't be challenged.
However, internet customers who receive a fifth or sixth warning can request an independent review if they believe they have been wrongly accused of file sharing.
The cost of the review is US$35 (A$34) and in order for the notices to be struck from official records, customers may be asked to prevail on several challenges against them.
Ars Technica surveyed the websites of ISPs participating in the scheme including AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, but found only Verizon had published information on the new system.
Verizon said it intends to reduce access speeds of customers who have received a fifth infringement notice to 256 Kbps for two days as punishment.
Those who have received a sixth notice will have their speeds reduced for three days.
Verizon will not terminate the accounts of customers accused of copyright infringement.
The Copyright Alert System is an agreement between rights holders and Internet providers to implement a notice-on-notice scheme that aims to educate users and steer them towards legal sources of content rather than peer-to-peer file sharing.
NZ more punitive
New Zealand has adopted a more severe and punitive three-strikes system and started fining customers whose accounts are alleged to have been used to infringe copyright through file sharing.
Three cases have been processed by the New Zealand Copyright Tribunal so far.
In the most recent case, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) had sought a total of NZ$3931.55 (A$3203.04) in compensation, fees and deterrent penalties against an alleged file sharer for sharing an Elton John song twice, and a Coldplay tune once.
However, as with the two earlier cases, the Tribunal meted out a much smaller fine, NZ$717.19 (A$584.22) in total.
Commenting on the third case, intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera — who currently acts for Kim Dotcom and Megaupload — said the Tribunal would only award damages based on provable loss, but warned that the deterrent amounts may go up in the future.
Speaking to the National Business Review, Shera also noted that the third case was heard entirely on papers by the Tribunal, with the accused not having responded to any of the notices.
Shera said the NZ anti-filesharing law presumes guilt on accusation with a low threshold of proof.
Furthermore, there is no requirement for rights holders to show that the alleged infringer received any of the notices, according to Shera.
Lobby group InternetNZ head of policy Susan Chalmers noted that account holders hauled in front of the Copyright Tribunal "generally do not have a handle on how to defend themselves" and that the penalties meted out are arbitrary.
"If you get a notice, it’s best that you take time out to understand how to respond or find someone to help you," Chalmers advises.
"We’ve seen that the recording industry will take no pity on you — it is nothing personal. They will go hard, so expect a fight".