New Anti Piracy System Likely To Draw Legal Challenges

February 26, 2013

Andrew Bridges, a partner Fenwick's copyright litigation group, was quoted in a Law360 article titled “New Anti-Piracy System Likely to Draw Legal Challenges (password required).”

The film and music industries recently launched an anti-piracy campaign known as the Copyright Alert System, designed to slow the Internet connections of users who repeatedly download content illegally. The newly-developed system, also called “Six Strikes,” will send notices to users downloading copyrighted content and reduce the connectivity speed of users given multiple warnings. Many attorneys think this move will spur litigation over Internet service providers' authority to impinge on users' Internet access.

Critics of the Copyright Alert System, like Bridges, say the warnings will be ineffective and that slowing down Internet speed is a draconian punishment.

"High-speed Internet is as important today as mail service, phone service or roads," he said.

Users who do challenge the actions will be facing the entire entertainment and ISP industries, Bridges said.

"The people backing this are going to have a hell of a lot more money than the people they're targeting."

Bridges said the system is "wrongheaded from the get-go" and "the copyright equivalent of security theater," the term used to describe airport security measures by critics who say they don’t improve safety.

"The punishment is disproportionate; it's guilty until proven innocent and there are no penalties for false claims," he said.

Bridges pointed to instances where content owners have wrongly asserted a copyright interest in order to get legal content taken down from YouTube and other sites.

"There are definitely instances of companies using copyright to suppress free speech," he said. "This system can be a dangerous private precedent to restrict free speech, since the First Amendment only binds the government."