Crackdown on illegal file sharing begins

"Implementation marks the culmination of many months of work on this groundbreaking and collaborative effort to curb online piracy and promote the lawful use of digital music, movies and TV shows," wrote Jill Lesser, executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, which is overseeing the program.

Content owners, such as movie studios, record labels and TV producers, will monitor the IP addresses of computers pirating their material. They will then notify the Internet provider, who will forward an alert to the IP address subscriber. 

After the first alert, the Internet provider can choose to take "mitigation measures," such as slowing the subscriber's Internet speed, redirecting users to a landing page until they contact their Internet provider or requiring the subscriber to review educational materials about Internet piracy. The providers will not cut-off any customers' Internet access.

There are a maximum of six alerts, leading some to dub the system "six strikes."

"Consumers whose accounts have been used to share copyrighted content over [peer-to-peer] networks illegally (or without authority) will receive alerts that are meant to educate rather than punish, and direct them to legal alternatives. And for those consumers who believe they received alerts in error, an easy to use process will be in place for them to seek independent review of the alerts they received," Lesser wrote in a blog post.

Users who believe they have received alerts in error can challenge them by requesting an independent review administered by the American Arbitration Association.

The user must file the challenge within 14 days of receiving the alert and must pay a $35 filing fee. The fee is refunded if the challenge is successful.

Gigi Sohn, president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, said in a statement that the copyright alert system will be a "significant test" of whether voluntary enforcement can curb online piracy while protecting the rights of Internet users.

She applauded the Internet providers and copyright owners for taking steps to protect consumers, but she said they will need to be "more open and transparent about how the [Copyright Alert System] works and, after the system has been in place for a time, to provide the public data that shows how the system is working."

Sohn is a member of the advisory board for the Center for Copyright Information.

— Updated at 12:01 p.m.