After several delays, it looks like the “six-strikes” Copyright Alert System is launching today. Over at Reason.com I write that instead of dismissing it out of hand, those of us skeptical of the current copyright regime should give it a chance:
While the Copyright Alert System is far from perfect, it succeeds in treating illegal file-sharing as an infraction more akin to speeding, and less like grand larceny the way courts and prosecutors do. And the private system has its own set of checks and balances absent from public enforcement: ISPs have a strong incentive to ensure that their customers are not harassed by false positives or overzealous enforcement. (Indeed, the agreement limits the number of notices copyright holders may send in a month.) This is why the temptation to codify such a “six-strike” system in law the way France and other countries have should be resisted.
In the long run, the new system is likely to be ineffective at stopping piracy. Determined pirates will be able to detect and evade monitoring, spoof their IP addresses, or simply switch to other methods of file-sharing not covered by the agreement, like streaming or using locker sites or Usenet. In the short run, however, copyright alerts will attempt to nudge public norms that have increasingly moved toward widespread acceptance of file-sharing. Evidence suggests, though, that it’s probably too late for that too.
Rather than dismiss the new system out of hand, those of us seeking a saner copyright regime should welcome this experiment while keeping a close eye on it. If nothing else, it’s preferable to have content owners make constructive use of their private rights rather than rely on the power of the state.