The top ISPs in the US have announced a deal with trade orgainisations including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association Of America to police their customers for pirating material.
Under the terms of the voluntary agreement AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable will send up to six electronic "copyright alerts" to customers that their computer is being used to traffic pirated material. If the activity carries on and the customer does not respond, the ISPs will take "mitigation measures".
"These steps 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," said the RIAA.
Customers will be able to challenge any accusations, for a $35 fee, and adjudication by an independent reviewer will take place. Such reviews do not, however, preclude legal action in civil courts.
"This groundbreaking agreement ushers in a new day and a fresh approach to addressing the digital theft of copyrighted works," said Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA.
"We hope that it signals a new era in which all of us in the technology and entertainment value chain work collaboratively to make the internet a more safe and legal experience.
"It is a significant step forward not only for the creative community, which invests in and brings great entertainment to the public, but for consumers and the legitimate online marketplace as well."
Reaction from the industry has been largely supportive, and even think-tanks known for their opposition to such policies have given the pact support, but pledged ongoing scrutiny as it is deployed.
"Today's agreement has the potential to be an important educational vehicle that will help reduce online copyright infringement," said a joint statement by Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy & Technology.
"But whether the agreement will meet its educational promise or undermine the rights of internet users will depend on how it is implemented.
"Among our concerns, we are particularly disappointed that the agreement lists internet account suspension among the possible remedies. We believe it would be wrong for any ISP to cut off subscribers, even temporarily, based on allegations that have not been tested in court."
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