In 2011, Cisco estimated that 38% of global Internet traffic is peer-to-peer.  Those staggering numbers are likely behind a new program by ISPs to monitor, track, and notify users who distribute copyrighted works via a peer-to-peer network, dubbed the “Six Strikes” program.

Typically, downloads via the Internet occur when your computer requests a file from the server, and the file in its entirety is sent to the originating computer.  In contrast, peer-to-peer networks differ because the same file is hosted on many computers worldwide, and your computer doesn’t request the full copy, but rather pieces of the file from different hosts.  This makes it very difficult to shut down those who traffic copyrighted materials, because taking down one computer on a peer-to-peer (P2P) is very time-consuming and ineffective.

The Six Strikes program was created to combat this issue. When the owner of a copyrighted work sees something being shared illegally, they log the IP address of the user, notify the user’s ISP, and then the ISP begins the program.  A user is given up to six gradually increasing warnings “starting with an alert about the copyright notice.  The next level of warnings is the user is required to acknowledge they have received warnings from the ISP and watch educational videos about piracy.  The highest and final levels are the ISPs taking steps to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the user to distribute copyrighted works and can include terminating a user’s account.  It’s important to note that these steps can, and likely will, vary from ISP to ISP and that at the onset of this program, there aren’t a lot of specifics as to how the higher-level warnings will be carried out.  You can appeal the notices.  Jason Voyles, an intellectual property attorney at Hulsey, Oliver & Mahar says “A user who feels he has received an alert in error is allowed to appeal the alert for a $35 fee.”

It’s important to note that the Six Strikes program is not a substitute for legal action either.  Voyles also says that the Six Strikes program does not supersede copyright law.  This means that a user still may be sued for copyright infringement in addition to or as an alternative to the Six Strikes program.”

It’s clear that this program is intended to cut down the trafficking of copyrighted works. With many organizations allowing access to Internet, it’s important to educate your workforce and family members on the new program and the consequences of sharing copyrighted works.

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