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Hurricane Sandy blows US pirate-pestering plan into 2013

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The voluntary US copyright scheme designed to head off anti-piracy legislation has been delayed again - this time, because of Hurricane Sandy. The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) says alerts won't now be sent out to serial infringers until early 2013.

"Due to unexpected factors largely stemming from Hurricane Sandy which have seriously affected our final testing schedules, CCI anticipates that the participating ISPs will begin sending alerts under the Copyright Alert System in the early part of 2013, rather than by the end of the year," the body said in a statement.

CCI is a body set up with the five biggest US ISPs and the creative industries to tackle online piracy. Under the scheme, copyright industries must make the complaints but they don't get to find out who the infringer is - a compromise intended to preserve users' privacy. They still need a court order to obtain an infringer's identity. ISPs aren't allowed to cut subscribers off from "essential services" such as email - but can slow down the connections of persistent infringers.

It's not what either side ideally wants, but it might be the best they get. ISPs fend off new legislation and get to preserve their safe harbour liabilities - while copyright industries hope to get serial pirates to change their behaviour.

A similar agreement was reached between British ISPs and copyright industries in the UK in 2008 - which envisaged educational letters going out to serial infringers. But trust broke down, and legislation was introduced in 2010.

"I'm still wrestling philosophically with how to engage with and sell to people you've disconnected in the first place. You need to provide them with the music they want, on a platform they want, at a price they want," former Undertone Feargal Sharkey said at the time.

Warning! Black Helicopters

Ofcom confirmed last week that it doesn't expect letters to go out to UK internet subscribers until 2014.

An FAQ on the US scheme can be found here. But if you're a blogger, feel free to ignore this: just close your eyes and imagine black helicopters swooping from the skies. ®

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