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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 19, 2012

Accounts of Accused Pirates Not to be Disconnected by Cable Companies

By Shankar Pandiath, TMCnet Contributor

Cable companies Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable and Verizon have decided that as a part of the forthcoming “six strikes” program they will not be pulling the plug on their customers who are accused of piracy by Hollywood movie studios and record labels.

At a forum organized by the Internet Society, Link Hoewing, Verizon's (News - Alert) vice-president, and Fernando Laguarda, Time Warner Cable's vice-president, said that the companies repeatedly inform customers who indulge in piracy that their activities violate copyright. As the cable company’s obligation is fulfilled after it conveys the said information, it would not take any further action against the pirates. The cable companies do not intend to terminate account of any of their customer who is accused of piracy by Hollywood movie studios and record labels.

There is a lot of concern regarding the policies and processes of Center for Copyright Information, a joint venture between Internet service providers and Hollywood Copyright holders. It will soon be beginning operations. Cablevision, AT&T (News - Alert) and Comcast are also members of this joint venture.

Cable companies’ unwillingness to terminate the pirating accounts doesn’t imply that the offenders would be off the hook. Copyright holders have the right to sue if they so choose. In the case of Jammie Thomas –Rasset, for the copyright infringement, the accused Minnesota woman was slapped with the penalty of $220,000.

However, vice-president of legal affairs of Motion Picture Association of America, Ben Sheffner, categorically stated that his organization has no plans to sue anybody. "Suing somebody is not part of the system and we have no plans to sue,” he added.

AT&T however is in no mood to relent. According to the documents that leaked from AT &T last month, the network provider is all set to start sending out warning notices to offenders who infringe its copyrighted content from Nov. 28, 2012.

According to Molly Land, assistant professor of law at New York Law School, which hosted the event, the ambiguity in the so-called memorandum of understanding between Internet providers and copyright holders will ensure that disconnections are not feasible at the moment.

"The sanction of termination is disproportionate to the goals of the system," Land said. "If there's a decision not to have termination on the table, can we get that in writing? The possibility is still there." According to Land, if termination is taken off the table it helps in a number of ways. She said it would make the entire system "more valid under human rights law" and alleviating due process concerns.

The memorandum allows the Internet providers to enforce policies against infringement of copyright. The enforced policies here can include "temporary suspension or termination" of customers' accounts. The executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, Jill Lesser, asked the public to reserve judgment on the current policies and program. The concerns on whether the program works or not, can be dealt with later when the program is ready to be executed. According to Lesser the public should "hold judgment in abeyance until the program is up and running which will be very, very soon."

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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