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Leaked AT&T files show planned anti-piracy measures

Blocking websites and handing over repeat offenders

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A series of what are claimed to be leaked training manuals show that AT&T will get a lot more aggressive with its customers over suspected internet piracy, beginning this November.

The documents, allegedly obtained by TorrentFreak, say that AT&T will contact customers who have been identified as pirates by copyright owners. The firm will then give users six strikes, with a variety of methods of censure, if they are accused of breaking copyright law.

"In an effort to assist content owners with combating on-line piracy, AT&T will be sending alert e-mails to customers who are identified as having been downloading copyrighted content without authorization from the copyright owner," the documents read.

"The reports are made by the content owners and are of IP-addresses that are associated with copyright infringing activities. AT&T will not share any personally identifiable information about its customers with content owners until authorized by the customer or required to do so by law."

The incomplete leak shows that on the fourth warning AT&T customers will be redirected to an "education page" when they try to reach certain unspecified sites, although El Reg would lay a bet The Pirate Bay is on the list. Offending customers will have to complete an educational tutorial about copyright before they are allowed to carry on browsing to those sites.

By the fifth alert, AT&T's documents say copyright holders will be able to start legal action against the customer, and the company will hand over the personal information of the user in question upon receipt of a court request.

The date for introducing this comes on November 28, in the week following the Thanksgiving national holiday, and it is expected that Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will announce similar plans around that time – but no one is talking to the press about it.

The organization identifying copyright infringement is thought to be the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), which is proposing the six-strikes system. On its website the organization – which is made up of copyright holders, ISPs and privacy groups – details the six-strikes process, dubbed the Copyright Alert System.

Under the proposed system, the RIAA and MPAA will notify CCI of any IP address it suspects of harboring pirates. Users will then receive a series of warnings, which after the first two suspected infringements will require a user to acknowledge receipt of the information, and then a graduated system of "mitigation measures", although the CCI states that cutting off internet access altogether isn't in the cards.

"Mitigation Measures may include, for example: temporary reductions of internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter," the CCI states.

Users who feel they have been falsely accused have a right of appeal at any stage, the CCI states, and any requests will be subject to an independent review from the American Arbitration Association. There's no mention of what kinds of costs will be involved in appealing.

AT&T's six strikes scheme is similar to that run by the French government under the name Hadopi, although the French system is seems tougher – it only allows for three strikes. So far the Gallic scheme has sent out over a million emails warning internet users who have been suspected of piracy. That country's government has spent around €12m a year since 2010 on the agency, which employs 60 copyright police.

The net result of all that effort is that no one has been prosecuted under the scheme, and peer-to-peer use in France actually went up after it was started. The new French administration is now considering cutting the scheme as a waste of taxpayer money, although Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein loves it. ®

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