In the first 10 months of the Copyright Alert System (CAS), Internet service providers have already sent out 1.3 million warnings to people suspected of violating intellectual property laws by downloading pirated material. The MPAA, RIAA, and five major American ISPs have implemented the system, which was created by the Center for Copyright Information.

The CAS uses a tiered warning system. Initially, educational notes are sent to consumers, but over time, the warnings can escalate into action against the person receiving them. There are six levels in total and since the CAS has only been active for a short period of time, the majority of warnings going out to consumers are only educational.

A Lot of Copyright Infringement

Avoiding detection by an Internet service provider is not difficult. Using a virtual private network will generally let people download pirated content without being detected. This means that the statistics reported Thursday by the Center for Copyright Information represents just a small portion of the pirating taking place. In the U.S. alone, 722,000 people received one strike during the past 10 months and around 570,000 individuals were caught downloading files multiple times.

The repeat-warning rate is significantly lower in other countries. France, for example, has a 9 percent repeat-warning rate, whereas the U.S. is at 30 percent. Additionally, more than half those who receive a second warning end up receiving a third, and that trend continues all the way through the higher alert levels.

The Center for Copyright Information is adamant that these warnings do discourage piracy and the group says that the statistics prove that. In reality, however, it is not known if people are halting their downloading or if they are just avoiding detection.

"We are encouraged by the initial data Relevant Products/Services from the Copyright Alert System's first 10 months suggesting that the program has the potential to move the needle in deterring copyright infringement," said Jill Lesser, CCI's executive director.

Numerous Complaints

It is easy to see why industry organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America would provide their full support for an initiative like the CAS. Even the White House has supported the measure, calling it a "positive step." Not everyone is in support of sending out the warnings, though, and some critics point out that defending oneself against a warning costs $35.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized implementation of the CAS, and smaller ISPs like Sonic.net have refused to work with the industry to send out warnings to consumers. It may not be a law but ISPs participating in the CAS have the ability to throttle a customer Relevant Products/Services's service if the customer is repeatedly caught downloading pirated content. Even with these complaints, the Center for Copyright Information says it plans to double the number of alerts over the next 12 months.