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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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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.

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