I would venture to guess that if you’re at least 20 years old, you remember the Napster controversy way back in the late 90’s. You could go there, find the music you liked and download it to your computer. The music industry didn’t like it because the availability of music that was free tended to cut into profits, and in 2000 the first lawsuit was filed.

A stereotypical caricature of a pirate.

A stereotypical caricature of a pirate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It killed Napster.

You can’t really blame the industries involved. I mean, it’s how they make a living, but piracy is still going on all over the Internet. You can search for “free music downloads” and still come away with a bunch of torrent sites that allow users to share not only music, but TV shows and software, as well.

This is illegal.

Until now, there has been no real way to put an end to this situation. However, last Monday (February 24, 2013) the Copyright Alert System (CAS) went into effect, and it gives you six chances to stop being a pirate (argh) or you’ll  have issues.

Five of the biggest Internet service providers (ISPs) are included in this system so far — AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and CableVision.  The sharing sites will be monitored by MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and when they catch people downloading, they’ll send a notice to the ISPs, who will deal with their own customers.

How the CAS works

The first warning is just a notice, which will probably pop up on the screen, telling whomever is working the IP address to stop being a pirate and give them options for downloading whatever it is legally. The second warning is a bit stickier in that it will block your browser from working and unless you acknowledge your involvement with piracy, you won’t be able to get past the warning.  This helps the industry to build a case against you. But I’m wondering if you can’t just change browsers. I mean, you still won’t want to go and download stuff or you’ll be nabbed again, but as a second warning, why not just change your browser and go on your merry way?

The third step isn’t a warning, it’s a temporary denial or slowdown of service from your ISP, but they don’t outright cut off your service.  And get this… It will cost you $35 to file an appeal, if you’ve been wrongly accused.

What does this mean to you, if you’re running a small brick & mortar business?

This is tied to your IP address, so if you have free WiFi connected to your business, you’ll be liable for the illegal downloads of your customers. Not good. Those against the Copyright Alert System say that this new legislation will make free wifi a thing of the past.

I don’t really see this happening. But you probably want to check with your lawyer to make sure you’re protected in your Terms of Service.

Here’s a video that does a little more explaining:

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