US piracy crackdown delayed until 2013

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Plans for a US piracy crackdown have been delayed, with the group co-ordinating the programme blaming Hurricane Sandy.

The controversial "six strikes" system, where illegal downloaders are sent a series of letters, was originally due to go live in 2011.

The storm has "seriously affected our final testing schedules", said the Center for Copyright Information.

The letters will now be sent in the early part of 2013, it said.

The CCI, which was set up to co-ordinate the programme, said in a statement: "Due to unexpected factors largely stemming from Hurricane Sandy which have seriously affected our final testing schedules, CCI anticipates that the participating ISPs will begin sending alerts under the Copyright Alert System in the early part of 2013, rather than by the end of the year.

"We need to be sure that all of i's are dotted and t's crossed before any company begins sending alerts."

Five of the US's major internet service providers - Verizon, Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast and AT&T - have agreed to take part in the scheme.

It is expected that all the ISPs would begin sending letters on the same day.

If the letter campaign fails, more punitive measures may be introduced.

These include bandwidth throttling, pop-up warnings and restricted browsing, so that repeated infringers trying to access certain websites will be redirected to an educational page.

News site TorrentFreak's editor Ernesto van der Sar explained how he thought the scheme would work.

Global piracy crackdown

  • France was one of the first to introduce a "three strikes" system
  • In Japan illegal downloaders face up to two years in prison or fines of up to £16,000
  • New Zealand claims that piracy has halved since it introduced a "three strikes" rule. No-one has yet appeared before its Copyright Tribunal
  • The UK plans to introduce a letter-writing campaign next year. Meanwhile copyright owners are seeking court orders to force ISPs to blocks sites such as The Pirate Bay
  • Similar blocks have been instigated in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Finland

"I don't expect millions of letters will be sent and the main target will be casual downloaders because it is relatively easy for heavy users to find ways of getting around it by using things such as virtual private network," he said.

He is not convinced that the threatened punishments will be widespread.

"I don't think there will be many people punished by this. The aim is to educate people and if they can reduce illegal downloads by even 10% that will have been a success.

"I'm sure the copyright holders would want to go all the way but the ISPs are reluctant and so they have come to this agreement."

Running parallel with attempts to educate the public, the US content industry is also putting pressure on search engines to have piracy results pushed down their search results.

There is also a campaign to prevent cyberlocker services such as MegaUpload using PayPal, Mastercard and other payment methods to finance themselves.

The US has also seen many mass legal actions against pirates, although some of these cases are coming unravelled as judges rule that IP addresses are not sufficient evidence to prosecute, while others question the law firms' motives in pursuing such cases.

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