How ISPs Can Help Avoid Copyright Violations

avoid copyright violationsWhile copyright laws vary from country to country, the legal impact of copyright violations all over the world point in the same direction. Many of the world’s most influential countries, including the US, Russia, Great Britain and Australia, have taken steps to ensure copyright violations are mitigated through ISPs acting as the gatekeeper. It’s important to know what ISPs are doing to ensure individuals and businesses minimize copyright violations on social media, cloud storage, and peer-to-peer sharing websites.

How ISPs in the United States are Preventing Copyright Infringement

ISPs in the US have rolled out what’s called the “Copyright Alert System”, backed by President Obama, supported by record labels and film studios. This plan was developed over several years with the active involvement of major ISPs including Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T.

This plan involves an escalating process in which mitigation steps are put in place after repeat offenses by subscribers. This measure starts with simple email alerts, moving on to redirection of the subscriber to copyright violation education websites, to ultimately putting a cap on maximum Internet speeds. It doesn’t prevent content owners from suing subscribers however. Nor does it have in its provisions a measure to permanently block violators. However, it does add an extra layer of gatekeeping from the ISPs themselves.

Informing Users of Copyright Violations in Australia

Australian ISPs are now required to tell users when they know that there is some sort of copyright breach that might have occurred on a particular site. They also are required to detail what steps they can take to retrieve the information in a legal way. Part of the mandate by the Attorney General and Minister of Communications is to ensure there is an industry code that the Australian Communications and Media Authority registers under that determines how internet users are notified.

These rules went into effect on April 8, 2015. Even if the users didn’t break the guidelines, the ISPs in Australia will still have to do a variety of due diligence steps including placing warning notices and determining a follow-up education process. The cost for these systems are split between the ISPs and the copyright holders themselves.

Voluntary Educational Efforts by ISPs in the UK

In the UK, ISPs will begin forwarding written notices to offenders who continue to download pirated material. These notices contain ideas to go about the process in a legal way. This is a voluntary mandate known as the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP). It is a joint effort by right holders groups and ISPs. This program initially applies only to P2P file sharing but will likely be broadened to other types of sharing as well.

One of the unique characteristics of this approach is that this doesn’t step into the terrain of legal consequences. This is primarily an educational measure rather than a legal one. The larger ISPs have already been sending these notices to users and the smaller ISPs are encouraged to begin doing so also.

ISPs Blocking Violating Websites in Russia

Russian ISPs have been given the responsibility of cracking down on piracy and copyright violation. Any website in the country that is guilty will be irrevocably banned from the country by the country’s ISPs. Once a website is blocked, it is impossible to become unblocked. This might seem strong-armed. However, it is actually even more potent in that there is no robust verification step involved. Even a suspicion of violating copyrights can block a website entirely.

The reason Russia has taken such a drastic step is that it has one of the worst track records related to copyright offenses. There appear to be about 70,000 sites in Russia that are currently blacklisted by ISPs, mainly due to the loose designation and low standards of blacklisting.

Russian additionally requires the communication operators to pay intellectual property rights holders fees for use of the online content and universal license. It lets users off easy for any piracy liability, which eases the burden of courts and authorities.

Global Challenges

Copyright violations do differ from country to country. It is unclear what procedures will be universally adopted in the next several years. There is no such thing as international copyright law at this time. However, 160 countries have signed a treaty that establishes a minimum set of rights for copyright holders across the globe.

One of the difficulties is that is is very hard to determine what is a violation when dealing with shared content that spans various countries. What might not even be a violation in one country might be a serious violation in another. Which country’s laws determine the offense? That isn’t always clear and the outcome lacks clarity.

Social Media Hurdles

Any social media platform user is considered a publisher. One often ends up sharing information without giving a second thought to copyright, especially given current changes and updated status of the laws themselves. Very rarely do users do the due diligence when sharing a picture, video, or article. One might very well be violating copyright without even realizing.

With Twitter for instance, the notion the original tweets deserve copyright protection is based on whether it would safeguard the original author’s interest. One could fight to protect their tweets, but that is pretty rare. Additionally, social media sharing gives the impression that proper attribution of a work frees users from violation. That’s actually not true. Providing proper credit and receiving permission are separate issues. The original owner might not like that their material was shared.

Social media companies can now be liable for the sharing done by its users, especially if such sites directly encourage such sharing. Thus, it’s important for ISPs to be aware of these latest developments. One never knows what changes in legislation, or extremes of user behavior, could trigger a formal, legal violation.


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