We’ve all seen the little notices that some use in an attempt to circumvent Copyright:
I don’t own the rights to any part of this video footage or music. I’m only posting as a fan and nothing more, not for money or any other personal gain.
Copyright doesn’t work that way. Just because someone says they don’t own video footage or music, doesn’t mean they aren’t infringing on copyright when they share it with others (that’s known as distribution). And the “fair use” clause doesn’t negate the creator’s exclusivity of copyright, although it does give users certain rights with the clear limits set out outlining what does and does not constitute “fair use.”
The tussle between creators and users has been going on for years now, with copyright infringers howling that copyrights infringe on their rights and ignoring the fact that their activities are, in fact, infringing on the rights of those who own copyrights. And screaming about how rich megastars are and how they don’t need more money marginalizes the many copyright owners along the way who aren’t megastars but who, like everyone else, have to pay rent or a mortgage, cover utilities, buy groceries, and pay taxes.
It seems that a workable compromise has been reached and now owners can protect their copyrights and users, with a little more effort on their part, can continue sharing their fan-based endeavors. It’s called the Copyright Alert System, and it rolled out last month.
You see, the Copyright Alert System — or CAS as it’s known — enables copyright owners to send notices of alleged copyright infringement to participating Internet Service Providers. Those notices are then forwarded to the offending party or parties in the form of Copyright Alerts. Each Copyright Alert will include the date, time, time zone and title of the copyrighted content alleged to have been unlawfully distributed through a peer-to-peer or file sharing system via each of the allegedly offending parties’ accounts.
The Copyright Alerts are broken down into three pairs of alerts: 2 educational alerts, 2 acknowledgement alerts, and 2 mitigation alerts.
The 2 educational alerts will provide information on how to ensure that ongoing copyright infringement via the account will not take place. If the account owner complies, that’s the end of it. No more alerts are sent.
If, however, copyright infringement continues to take place and additional complaints from copyright owners are filed through the Copyright Alert System, then acknowledgement alerts will be sent with information on how to address the activity that’s generating the acknowledgement alerts in the first place. The acknowledgement alerts will require a response from the account owner. If the account owner complies, that’s the end of it. No more alerts are sent.
If, however, the educational alerts and the acknowledgement alerts are ignored, and copyright infringement continues to take place with additional complaints from copyright owners filed through the Copyright Alert System, mitigation alerts will be sent.
Contrary to popular misconception, the mitigation alerts will not result in the Copyright Alert System forcing the closure of your internet account with your Internet Service Provider. In other words, closing down your internet account isn’t a mitigating measure nor is it part of the Copyright Alert System.
SIDE NOTE: If your internet account is terminated by your Internet Service Provider, it would on the basis that a breach of the Terms of Service occurred that led to notifications from the Copyright Alert System. All ISP Terms of Service state clearly that the transmission or storage of material protected by copyright or by other intellectual property rights without the consent of the relevant rights holders may be an infringement of Canadian copyright law and could result in civil and criminal liability. All ISP Terms of Service state that their services may only be used for lawful purposes. Copyright infringement is grounds for termination of service on this basis, if an ISP should decide to move forward with closing an account that receives multiple CAS alerts.
The mitigating measures could result in any number of “temporary” inconveniences including some of the following:
- A temporary reduction of Internet speed;
- Redirection to a landing page until the primary account holder of your account contacts your ISP; or
- Redirection to a landing page where the primary account holder must review and respond to educational information.
However, in cases where mitigating measures have had to be enacted, copyright owners may choose to proceed against repeat offenders in a court of law.
Now, should someone receive a mitigating alert with which they disagree or that they believe was sent in error, a process has been put in place to protect those who receive mitigating alerts. A request can be filed requesting an independent review of the materials that have allegedly been copyright infringed by the account owner, however, it must be filed within 14 days of receipt of the mitigating alert. While there is a $35 filing fee involved (which is refunded if the challenge is successful), the filing fee will be waived for those who are unable to afford it. If your challenge is successful, that $35 fee is refunded.
And who will be responsible for arbitration? The arbitration is administered by the American Arbitration Association.
If you’re a copyright owner, you’ll want to download this PDF to assist in meeting the requirements for filing a notice with the Copyright Alert System. It might also prove helpful to content consumers and content users to facilitate navigating the choppy waters of copyright law.