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If you download files via bittorrent, you may receive a menacing notice

With lawsuit campaigns generating a firestorm of negative publicity and in general losing far more than they make in settlements, big media is turning to a new tactic on its "war" on piracy.

I. Warnings Rollout

This week AT&T, Inc. (T), Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC), Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), Time Warner Cable, Inc. (TWC), and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) will become test candidates for a new system of warnings to customers who file share.  The rollout will last about two months, and by the end pirating customers may be in for unpleasant surprises.

The media industry will largely be "footing the bill" for the piracy policing.  Their efforts rely on a company called MarkMonitor, which trolls BitTorrent networks, collecting IP addresses.  MarkMonitor recently became a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters Corp. (TRI) in July, ending over a decade of independence.  The company has made a name for itself fighting against illicit online drug marketplaces and so-called travel agency "brand-jacking".  Now it sets its sights on the biggest challenge of them all -- trying to sneak around the underbelly of the peer-to-peer piracy and data-mine information on its participants.

The information collected will be anonymized and sent to the ISPs, who will in turn match it to their customers and send out warnings.  The initial warning will be a "friendly" notice with suggestions of how to obtain content legally and tips on securing your connection (in case the infringer is a third party).

If customers do not heed the warning and continue to show up on MarkMonitor's list, they will next be asked to sign a waive acknowledging they received the latest warning.  After that, additional warnings will earn "mild" punishments, including throttling the user's connection or forcing them to watch "educational" anti-piracy programming in order to keep connected.

Piracy Warning
Digital pirates will face warnings and mile punishments, thanks to a new alliance between ISPs and big media.

Users who feel they have been unjustly notified can challenge the notice -- but it will cost them.  The cost per challenge is a one-time fee of $35 USD.

The program is being overseen by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI).  Its big media backers including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), both notorious in their own right for committing for-profit "piracy" of small content-producers' work.  Other major participants in the CCI are individual big content producers including Sony Corp. (TYO:6758), The Walt Disney Comp. (DIS), News Corp. (NWS) (and its Fox subsidiaries), and Vivendi SA (EPA:VIV) subsidiaries UMG and EMI.

II. Piracy Killer? Uncertainty Remains

No one knows quite how well the system -- geared at annoying pirates enough to change their ways -- will work.  But assuming that big media sticks to its promise of not terminating file sharers, it's at least a step forward from the punitive and unaccountable tactics used in the past -- tactics that hurt both customers and the media industry's pocketbooks.

Piracy is a tough puzzle.  

One question is whether it is harmful in the first place.  After all, copying illicitly a digital work is somewhat different than stealing a physical commodity.  Some evidence indicates that piracy is not truly costing the industry any revenue (in the sense that customers often use piracy to sample, and would not necessarily buy the content legitimately in the absence of piracy).  Some evidence even points to piracy increasing revenues, evidenced by studies that show pirates purchase more music legally than their peers.

DVD Burning
It is unclear whether piracy hurts media revenue. [Image Source: MiNDFOOD]

So what exactly are the best ways to stop online piracy?  Much promise exists in the option of ad-supported content models, such as internet radio.  But the challenge is getting big media on board with these kinds of new technologies, when their executives are often fearful that they will hurt their company's bottom line.

A final question is whether the industry will keep its promise regarding no terminations, or whether this is simply a prelude to more draconian measures.  In a recent leaked letter the RIAA expressed its desire to terminate pirates.  But of course, such a plan would likely be resisted by the ISPs who balk at the idea of turning away paying customers.  In the face of that resistance it's unclear whether big media could manage to push any sort of more punitive plan into place.

Source: CCI

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Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By LordSojar on 10/22/2012 2:18:47 PM , Rating: 5
$35 to challenge a claim eh? So, it costs us, the consumer who could very well be innocent, money to prove their innocence, else they are automatically guilty. Wow, seems like they're trying to push the costs they supposedly are incurring off on their customers...

You did this! Wait, well, you may not have, but pay us $35 to verify our findings. Nope, you still did it, but thanks for your $35.

Is a judge presiding over these $35 contests? Who is deciding and on what criteria? Seems like you're just giving them $35 for nothing so they can laugh at you, steal your money, and then continue to rob you blind with US ISP rates as they are now.

I detect pseudo-Ponzi scheme...

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By superstition on 10/22/2012 2:47:18 PM , Rating: 5
Due process and habeas corpus are being tossed aside by our betters, and the public is asleep. Read Glenn Greenwald's many articles on this. The end of innocent until proven guilty at the cost of $35 a pop is just one cog in the new machine.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Shig on 10/22/2012 3:54:28 PM , Rating: 5
I have Comcast and I recieved one of these troll 'injunctions' last year. It was filed from a court in Florida and I live in Chicago. Basically it said I was liable and if I didn't settle with the court in Florida they would force Comcast to hand out all of my information, IP address, real address, name, etc. Then there was this giant list of random IP addresses with mine highlighted.

I then called Comcast and pretty much said look retards, I pay 200$ a month for my triple play package, give out my information and kiss my business goodbye. They changed their tune pretty fast.

These are purely scare tactics, don't let them intimidate you. They will try to bully you into handing your information out, DO NOT DO IT.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Samus on 10/23/2012 1:24:06 AM , Rating: 2
I got one from Comcast last year too. Never heard any more about it, and now I'm mostly on private torrent communities so I agree, like everything these days, it's just a scare tactic. Lawyers are pretty creative.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Sazabi19 on 10/23/2012 12:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
As did I. They did however actually have the name of the movie that I was downloading. In the article they were right though, if I can't copy it then I won't just go out and buy it. I will wait until I can listen to the music or something to see if I want it. With most of my music I will pirate it first, if I like it then I will PAY for it, if I do not then I delete it. More recently, if I can find on an artists page (if they are not an independent artist whom all the money goes to) a donate button, I will keep the downloaded music and donate, no reason for me to pay them $3 for the music and the rest to the greedy companies. After I got my notice from Comcast that I was pirating I started to wonder what other info they were reading, or COULD read. Since then I have been using a VPN to connect to. The telco can no longer see any of my information accept for encrypted gobblygook. I would suggest more people start to do the same. Do some research on a paid VPN service, some of them are nice and cheap (mine is $40/yr) and look for nice things like no record keeping and shared IPs, also that they don't charge you for changing where you are VPN'd out of. Certain sites no longer work in the US, isohunt is one of them. Try from anywhere in the US to get to isohunt and it doesn't load; Try however to access it from a UK server and *boom* right there it is. The only thing giving me trouble so far is paypal, they don't like your address being registered in 1 area and paying from another, or logging in from 2 different geological areas that you can't possibly travel that fast to get to in a certain time frame. It is a security feature but annoying when you don't know what is going on.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Samus on 10/23/2012 1:09:40 PM , Rating: 2
Totally, I love Amazon MP3's (DRM-free) for this very reason. I listen to online radio a lot, and when I hear a song I like, I Shazam it on my phone and can purchase it directly through Shazam using Amazon Mobile, usually $6-$8/album. Convenient, inexpensive, no bogus CD to rip, and no iTunes DRM-bulls#@^

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Sazabi19 on 10/23/2012 1:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
Amazon is ok to listen to the demos of the songs, I still try to purchase my music from another source though. Not because I don't like Amazon, I do, it's just their compression. They use 128-192kbps to about 320kbps which is about CD quality. I try to get my music in the highest fidelity as possible, there isn't that much difference to the human ear no, but I have my amp/dac and my Sennheiser HD650's so I like listening to my stuff. If I can't find lossless or 320k I will usually just head to Amazon.

By EricMartello on 10/23/2012 2:16:29 PM , Rating: 2
MP3s don't need to be CBR @ 320 Kbps to sound good. The "standard preset" for the LAME encoder produces VBR files that are typically in the 200 Kbps range on average and sound as good as or better than CBR 320Kbps MP3s. I would attribute the better sound quality to the LAME encoder's algorithms more so than the bitrate itself.

By Cypherdude1 on 10/24/2012 5:18:55 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree, the quality of Amazon's MP3's are not very good. Many are not CBR 256 kbps and the bit rate can go down to 128. Together with "joint stereo" encoding, their songs sound pretty bad. The joint stereo format shares certain code between the channels and can sound awful. MP3's should never share code between the channels. They should always be pure stereo.

Amazon gave me a $5 bonus MP3 credit so I purchased 5 songs. "OneRepublic 03 Stop And Stare.mp3" is CBR 256 kbps and joint stereo. Not only is the quality poor, but it even has a very noticeable error at 2:05! I have not listened to the MP3 with headphones so there are probably other errors in the MP3.

"Imagine Dragons 03 Its Time.mp3" is yet another CBR 256 kbps with joint stereo. It does not sound very good during the more louder, intense, moments.

Both MP3's are over level recorded. If their output attenuation is not lowered, you also get distortion during the loudest parts. I had to dig out the 10 year old in_mad.dll "MAD plug-in v0.14.2b" WinAMP input plug-in to use its "Auto clipping attenuation" feature set at "Most sensitivity" for my Win7-64 system!

The only way you can be sure about the quality is to buy the CD and rip it yourself into CBR 320 kbps with standard stereo MP3's. Keep in mind Amazon receives the MP3's they sell from the studios. It's the studios who actually create the MP3 files. We constantly read about the RIAA suing everyone. Yet, the quality of their product is garbage.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Netscorer on 10/23/2012 1:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
How's you torrent transfer speeds and latency while on VPN from US to UK? Seems to me $40 per year is just beginning of the costs you have to pay to stay under radar.

By Sazabi19 on 10/23/2012 2:31:51 PM , Rating: 2
I have 50 down and 10 up, I don't stay connected to the UK to download, I only use my UK connection to search for what I want and grab it. After that I suspend my downloads and disconnect from the UK and reconnect usually to the midwest in the US which has the biggest pipe. In the US I get my full 50+ down and 10+ up, the UK I lose some speed from depending on the location, the worst for me I think is Romania where I get high teens to mid twenties, definite latency though. Each of the exits has its own bandwidth and the us-midwest is the highest in the US. The rest are all very high and more than capable as well. Most of the UK servers are the same as the standard US servers, a few are lower. I would set it to auto connect to the location nearest your actual location for speed purposes, only reconnecting somewhere else if you need it, then going back. Hope that helped.

By Sazabi19 on 10/23/2012 2:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, to answer you directly, even with my service VPN on I get 4mbps+ on torrents depending on seeds. The best I have gotten so far is 8mbps+ from Steam, so it's not exactly limiting my speeds. Those are about on par with no using the VPN at all.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By theapparition on 10/22/2012 4:43:56 PM , Rating: 4
While I don't agree to any of these actions, let's not get carried away thinking our rights are being violated. Innocent until proven guilty only applies to matters of the government, not between private parties that have contractual obligations towards on another.

This is a contract between two private parties, and you're free to leave them if you don't agree with their new provisions.

You can't be prosecuted, thrown in jail or be waterboarded. Our eyes aren't being held open clockwork orange style. No one is forcing us to do business with any of these companies.

Again, I don't agree with it. But let's keep things in perspective.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By ritualm on 10/22/12, Rating: 0
RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By maugrimtr on 10/23/2012 8:27:14 AM , Rating: 5
If it costs too much, I suggest not buying it. Stealing it remains a criminal act which is why ISPs are desperate to block that avenue from being explored. Maybe it's about time law enforcement got involved. I have a feeling that being formally charged and dragged to court in handcuffs would be a sufficient deterrent.

Of course that is the problem in a nutshell. Since law enforcement is not involved, piracy has gained social acceptance. Folk admit to it openly on forums and in comments. Instead of having the law enforced, we instead have some association ply their money to election candidates, buy themselves lots of favours, and take to the task of privatising (i.e. skipping over the annoyance of due process and presumption of innocence) the enforcement of laws through civil and ISP actions.

The whole situation is ludicrous.

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By Dr of crap on 10/23/2012 9:16:15 AM , Rating: 3
Let's see - do you
-take personal calls while at work?
-copy/print personal items on your work printer?
-eat a grape at the market to determine if they're good tasting before buying?
-get too much money back in change and keep it?
-get extra food in your bag from the drive through window and don't bring it back?
-find that the check out person didn't ring up a item at the store yet you don't go back and fix the mistake?

THESE ARE ALL stealing. Did you think any of these require the cops or jail time? You sir are a bit over thinking this problem.

The time is 1990.
I buy a CD. My friend hears it and wants a copy. I make one and give it to him. This repeats over and over again.
Seems harmless to me to make a copy for my friend. How am I do know that it gets copied a thousand times? Better call the cops. I need to PAY for my SINS!

RE: Innocent until proven... oh wait, no
By mcnabney on 10/23/2012 9:42:13 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, most people don't do those things. If you consider those to be acceptable societal behaviors - I would assert that you are the problem in society.

By Dr of crap on 10/23/2012 10:26:54 AM , Rating: 5
Really - you haven't any of these things happening?
You must live in Utopia!

By maugrimtr on 11/12/2012 9:30:34 AM , Rating: 1
Pirating, as defined in context with modern terms, is a stranger uploaded a copy of some movie/show/album so lots of other strangers can download it and pay nothing. Quit trying to cover it with a friendly facade of friends exchanging physical copies on load (where the right to resell is already established, i.e. it's actually legal to do so!).

Also stop lurking behind the excuse of minimal costs. A grape or some extra fries in the drive though is hardly worthy of the cops' attention while technically illegal. Pirating a movie, distributing to thousands of willing accomplices, can run into serious money. This is the same fallacy running through your friend-copied-my-1990s-cassette excuse.

Piracy is illegal. Those who engage in it are criminals. Those who engage in distribution or serial offences are criminals who need a jail term. This is simple common sense.

What we have now is a law enforcement who won't go after these criminals actively, abdicating their responsibilities to companies whose only recourse is to lobby politicians, buy rights-eroding legislation and seek to force ISPs into the policing that the federal and state governments refuse to undertake.

The media companies are assholes, of course, but they get away with being assholes because out government has failed in its duty.

By inperfectdarkness on 10/23/2012 11:29:09 PM , Rating: 2
ISP's aren't eager to clamp down on piracy because it's stealing; ISP's are eager to clamp down on piracy because it means their pathetic, badly manged, woefully outated infrastructure can be retained at its current level of ineffectiveness because the bandwidth isn't being hogged.

Out of all of these, Time-Warner is probably the only ISP with the alterior motive of protecting copyright material. Frankly, I don't know why anti-trust hasn't knocked the stuffing out of TW. Having a content provider and ISP rolled into one is a bad, bad, INCREDIBLY bad idea.


Good luck finding me. I'm behind 7 proxies.

By theapparition on 10/23/2012 9:49:59 AM , Rating: 2
Jamie Thomas got royally screwed by the RIAA and you're still standing here saying "you can't be prosecuted, thrown in jail or be waterboarded"... so much fail.

You say I fail, but I suggest you go back and read the verdict and perhaps understand the law.

She was sued in a CIVIL court. She was not prosecuted. There was no District Attorney, the state or federal government didn't come after her. The RIAA did in a CIVIL trial. She was found guilty of copyright infringement in a CIVIL case, not a CRIMINAL one. As of now, she isn't in jail, no could she be put in one over this.

Do you see the difference. This is no different in concept than Apple suing Samsung in CIVIL court. Do we see Samsung executives being hauled away in shackles over that verdict. I'm not sure you could buy a clue if you even knew where to look.

And I know my original comment wasn't popular, but it was 100% factual. I'll reiterate that I don't agree what's being done here, or what happened to Jamie Thomas. But just screaming about due process isn't going to help. You have to understand the law. Due process has nothing to do with contracts between private parties (unless it's specifically outlined in the contract like NFL mediation procedures).

The other party imposes a contract on you and threatens to break your neck if you don't comply. Free to leave? Bogus.

Sigh. So here's how it works. You call up Comcast and want their service. At some point, you'll sign a Terms of Service (ToS). Do you read that? If not, you should. In there, it states that they can terminate your service for doing anything illegal or even things that they just might not like (running a home web server, for example). If you don't like the terms, then no one is forcing you to sign the contract. If Comcast changes the contract, then you're free to leave. If they find that you've violated the ToS, then they might stop service.

But at no time is there any threat of violence (break your neck, really?) or jail time, or anything else. Just disolution of the contract. That's it. Not a big deal.

God damn you are delusional.

People with mental problems always tend to think they're fine, and everyone else around them are the crazy ones. So keep thinking that the rest of the world is out to get you. The sad fact is that I agree with you in principle, but you're a little to blind to see that.

By edge929 on 10/22/2012 4:03:10 PM , Rating: 3
That $35 is better spent on a proxy service like BTGuard or you can go the slightly more complicated route and just use Usenet/NZB.

By augiem on 10/22/2012 6:38:11 PM , Rating: 2
This is just yet more of the same. Our lives, money, and identies don't belong to us anymore.

Your credit gets screwed by a mistake or identity theft? It's up to you to go spend money and time fighting it and prove you did nothing wrong. A bank, credit card, or utility company makes a mistake and bills you for something wrongly? Pay it or we'll destroy your credit, or you prove you don't owe it. Is your IP address block in a spam blacklist because of someone on your ISP? Too bad! You go jump through hoops and try to get your IP off the 30+ blacklists so you can get your email.

Innocent until proven guilty is a nice fairy tale.

By mike66 on 10/22/2012 10:12:15 PM , Rating: 2
Welcome to the Chinese justice system ' guilty until you prove your innocence'. This system can not be faught by the little guy, you will need big dollars to defend yourself, dollars only that a proffesional pirate can make from selling pirated DVD's / CD's. Lock down your children's PC's and remove torrenting from your modem settings because children will always try to be rebellious. Myself I will use VPN and an overseas proxy to bypass spying eye's or maybe go to the local internet cafe or library that can't protect itself from my hacking tools or just don't have the technical knowledge to protect themselves. Oh wait, I don't have to do any of that because here in Australia I belong to an ISP that told the RIAA and other such copyright companies to take a flying leap and will not pass on infringement notices. Have they not learned the lession from the war on drugs, take down the supplier not the end user.

By Wolfpup on 10/23/2012 11:39:37 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that "$35 to challenge" is BS.

And does this just troll ALL bit torrent networks? Or only ones actually engaged in theft? Because (obviously) bit torrent is used ALL THE DAMN TIME for completely legal uses. Am I going to be arrested or something for downloading the newest version of

vpn subscriptin will increase
By anony25 on 10/22/2012 3:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
just because providers are not seeing an increase in file share uploaders, does not mean people are not uploading anymore, it means they have subscribed to a vpn monthly subscription..... for those reading my comment , guys you can sign up for a good cheap vpn monthly subscription here 9 bucks a month... and they dont log your activities.. so if courts were to go after them, they cant give them any info about you, because they keep no log files of your activities.....

RE: vpn subscriptin will increase
By Jaybus on 10/22/2012 4:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
Naturally, AirVPN and such will be some of the first IPs on the throttle/ban list. The transmissions are encrypted, and there is no proof of what was transmitted, but that doesn't stop them from throttling or banning the IPs of the middle man (ie. VPN provider).

RE: vpn subscriptin will increase
By anony0 on 10/22/2012 4:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
can you give me a good cheap vpn service then the one you think that wont be banned by providers send me a email at

RE: vpn subscriptin will increase
By Adonlude on 10/23/2012 1:48:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, your own. Google Hamachi or OpenVPN.

What if its your own content?
By Rott3nHIppi3 on 10/22/2012 3:31:50 PM , Rating: 2
This will be interesting to see how ISPs/Tracking systems sort out illegal vs legal content. I upload my band's album to a variety of bittorrent sites. Is my IP being logged now and subject to ISP scrutiny simply because I have constant connection to those sites? What about downloading Linux ISOs or other large torrents that are free to use?

RE: What if its your own content?
By Jaybus on 10/22/2012 4:28:51 PM , Rating: 2
They use MarkMonitor to decide which content. It isn't just a bot. They also use teams of employees to troll for content and report where it is available. These people have job titles such as "Brand Protection Analyst", etc., and they find the content in the same way anyone else does, only they report at what IPs they found the content. The participating ISPs then use MarkMonitor's list for their warning and throttling. The Linux ISOs are therefore safe. Couldn't say about your band's album.

By foolsgambit11 on 10/22/2012 10:02:45 PM , Rating: 2
It is assumed that is how it will work. But when ISPs and the company get paid by sending out warnings, you have to wonder about quotas getting the better of fairness.

WTF is this crap?
By ViroMan on 10/22/2012 2:20:18 PM , Rating: 2
Users who feel they have been unjustly notified can challenge the notice -- but it will cost them. The cost per challenge is a one-time fee of $35 USD.

Really, they think that is ok with everyone? They are always trying to sue the wrong person and now they will be warning the wrong person and if the person wants to say they didn't do it, it will COST them $35!? I call BS.

RE: WTF is this crap?
By Trisped on 10/22/2012 5:38:14 PM , Rating: 2
I think the point is to keep costs down by discouraging people from challenging. Of course this discourages both those who infringe and those who do not.

I think the point is suppose to be that you have already been proven guilty, and you are paying a fee to have the results double checked. Personally I think if they are unable to provide sufficient evidence of infringement when they send you the notice (including IP addresses, name of work accessed illegal, and company/individual infringed upon), then they should not be charging the $35.
I also think that if the $35 is payed and the challenge proves that there was a mistake, the one accused should receive $350 the payment as compensation for false accusation.

There is better way to fight piracy
By pixelslave on 10/23/2012 11:25:00 AM , Rating: 2
in the sense that customers often use piracy to sample, and would not necessarily buy the content legitimately in the absence of piracy

Even though I am not sympathize to the big studio, I don't buy this excuse. Yes, not everyone who pirates will buy the content in the absence of piracy, but some will. Some might even argue that if a person can't afford the content in the first place, he will never buy that content anyway -- but looking back at the days before the internet, this was simply not how it worked. Back at those days, people who couldn't a record or CD would save money to make a purchase. Nowadays, no one would do so, because they can use the money for something else and just pirate.

On the other hand, I feel that there's no way to fight piracy. The damage has already been done. Fighting is meaningless. What the content maker should do is to make the legitimate content so easy to obtain and so cheap that the convenience makes people think that piracy is too troublesome. Netflix is great, but Netflix will be better if I can stream every movie ever made. I will definitely pay a slightly higher price for that -- hell, I would even accept a limit of how many movies I can stream in a given month!

By johnbuk on 10/23/2012 11:49:03 AM , Rating: 2
"Back in those days" when you couldn't afford an album you'd borrow your friends LP and copy it onto a cassette tape. Then came dual cassette players/recorders that made it easy to copy cassettes. And it wasn't too long after CD players became affordable that the CDR became common.
My old man evan had a huge collection of bootleg LPs recorded onto reel-to-reel tapes that he purchased overseas when he was in the military well before cassette players became common.
My point being that people have been sharing music and media for decades so none of this is really new.

How do you combat piracy?
By Jackthegreen on 10/23/2012 3:37:00 AM , Rating: 2
Simple: Give the people what they want. I have a funny feeling few companies are putting effort into analyzing why people pirate in the first place.

This is an Illegal tactic
By KOOLTIME on 10/24/2012 5:30:02 PM , Rating: 2
If ISP's do this warning deal, and attempt to charge a fee for a victim, that has done nothing wrong to correct this erroneous error that they are downloading illegal software. That is outright extortion.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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