Comcast Developing Anti-Piracy Alternative to ‘Six Strikes’ (Exclusive)
The owner of the nation’s largest cable operator has begun preliminary discussions with both film and TV studios and other leading Internet service providers about employing technology, according to sources, that would provide offending users with transactional opportunities to access legal versions of copyright-infringing videos as they’re being downloaded.
A spokeswoman for Comcast declined comment.
Comcast is said to be keen on getting content owners and ISPs from outside the conglomerate to join the effort, even for a beta trial that would be concentrated to a limited selection of programs and Internet subscribers. No timetable has been set, however.
As sources described the new system, a consumer illegally downloading a film or movie from a peer-to-peer system would be quickly pushed a pop-up message with links to purchase or rent the same content, whether the title in question exists on the VOD library of a participating distributor’s own broadband network or on a third-party seller like Amazon.
The new approach would be an alternative to the Copyright Alert System, a voluntary initiative many leading programmers and distributors like Comcast have been utilizing since February. Other CAS participants include AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, as well as all studios affiliated with MPAA.
Also informally known as the “six strikes” initiative, CAS issues warnings to subscribers engaging in copyright infringement as many as six times before the ISP can actively impede their bandwidth.
While Comcast is among the prominent distributors and programmers who participate in CAS as a member of Center for Copyright Information, this new system is not a CCI initiative. That said, CCI has been notified of Comcast’s interests and could eventually step in to become part of its implementation.
While sources familiar with the new initiative emphasized that it is being seen as a complement to CAS and not a replacement, the very emergence of an alternative raises questions as to the viability of CAS, which has been criticized for myriad reasons ranging from the questionable strategic rationale of punishing subscribers to an implementation that has been characterized as scattershot. How the two systems would coexist is unclear.
But the Obama Administration has been supportive of CAS. Earlier this year, White House-appointed copyright czar Victoria Espinel singled out the initiative as a positive step toward copyright enforcement that didn’t require government intervention.
Just last week, France moved to downscale Hadopi, a system similar to CAS, the first of its kind worldwide. After three years of implementation and heavy criticism, Hadopi will now fine offending subscribers instead of blocking Internet access after repeated warnings.
Using pirated content as a platform to drive legal transactions reflects an alternate philosophy regarding copyright infringement, one that sees the illegal activity less as a crime that requires punishment and more as lead generation to a consumer whose behavior is borne out of inadequate legitimate digital content options.