The Center for Copyright Information, which created the alert system, is responsible for producing the methods that companies will be allowed to use to catch pirates, but it said Tuesday it won't release those details publicly. It said the system will rely on humans to review the entire content of every file to make sure it qualifies as material protected under copyright laws.
"This is an imperfect science," said Yoshi Kohno, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. "The likelihood of a false positive depends on the diligence of the party doing the investigation."
Bartees Cox, a spokesman for the consumer watchdog group Public Knowledge, says it will watching to ensure the program doesn't evolve into imposing harsher punishments by Internet providers, such as terminating a person's Internet access altogether if they are accused of being a prolific violator.
If a person believes they've been wrongly accused, they will have multiple chances to delete the material and move on without any repercussion. If the problem is chronic, they can pay $35 to appeal — a charge intended to deter frivolous appeals but also one that can be waived. The center says it won't require proof that a person is financially strapped.
The center's director, Jill Lesser, said the goal is to educate the average Internet user, rather than punish them, and no one will see their Internet access cut off.
"This is the first time the focus has been on education and awareness and redirection to legal and authorized services and not on punitive measures or a carrot-and-stick approach," she said.
Sohn said the effort will be a significant test whether voluntary measures can reduce copyright infringement.
"The long-term challenge here is getting users to change their attitudes and behaviors and views toward copyright infringement, because the technology that enables infringement — computers, digital technology and the Internet — that stuff isn't going away," he said.
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