Friday, May 03, 2013

New Copyright Alert System Will Notify Content Owners of Digital Piracy

On March 29, UC Hastings College of the Law hosted a Conference about the new Copyright Alert System (CAS). The conference attracted business executives, scholars and attorneys to discuss CAS from multiple viewpoints including the background and origins of CAS, its effectiveness and reach, and the new directions of copyright enforcement forged by CAS.

In an effort to curb online piracy, CAS was created by a number of entertainment industry representatives (including recording industries, motion picture associations, and independent musicians), who partnered with several major American Internet Service Providers (such as AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon). The conference offered an opportunity for content industry and ISP representatives to explain the background, objectives, and implementation of CAS. Academic scholars, including UC Hastings Professor Ben Depoorter, who also organized the conference, evaluated the likely effects of CAS on copyright enforcement and the public.

“This was a terrific conference,” says Professor Depoorter, “with many of the key players in content creation and copyright enforcement represented. The audience learned about the details of the implementation of CAS and potential complications.”

Conference sessions included:

  • Background, Implementation, Objectives with Marianne Grant, Senior Vice President of the Motion Picture Association of America; and Corynne McSherry, Intellectual Property Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • Evaluating CAS and Graduated Response Systems with Professor Annemarie Bridy of University of Idaho College of Law; Professor Mary La France of UNLV; and Professor Ben Depoorter of UC Hastings.
  • Reflections on the Day, a keynote address from Professor Pamela Samuelson of UC Berkeley Law.

Marianne Grant, Senior Vice President of the Motion Picture Association of America, explained the technical inner-workings of the program while providing background on the content industry‘s aspirations for the Alert System.

Several speakers at the conference pointed out some concerns with the copyright alert system, including the potential for false positives, the need to preserve fair use. Professor Mary La France emphasized the need to create additional procedural safeguards.

Professor Depoorter’s empirical study suggested that CAS may produce effective deterrence while avoiding the public backlash that resulted from the industries’ prior litigation campaign. Depoorter noted that although alerts may boost the subjective probability of enforcement, without sending out mass alerts, the system will likely induce a “download and see” approach among internet subscribers.

In her keynote address, Professor Pamela Samuelson, the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at UC Berkeley Law School, provided a historical overview of copyright enforcement against end-users and the evolution of copynorms in today’s culture. Although content providers emphasize the educational aspects of CAS, Professor Samuelson noted that the goals of the program are likely to scare individuals from downloading unlicensed content.  

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