Beginning this week, the five major Internet service providers—AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon—will be able to take recourse against you if you download—or are suspected of downloading—anything illegally. The arrangement is a result of the Copyright Alert System, which basically gives the companies free rein to punish you for your alleged misdeeds.
Among the actions the service providers can take: harass you with notices, slow down your Internet speed and block you from visiting certain websites.
Gawker explains how it works:
Content owners like the RIAA (for music) and MPAA (for movies) will monitor peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing sites like BitTorrent for their own content. Once these content owners notice a copy of, say, Bridesmaids available for illegal download, the owner will collect the IP addresses of users sharing the file (you) and tattle on you to your internet service provider.
Your service provider (ahem, Time Warner), will then issue an alert to you to let you know they know you’re in violation of copyright laws. They will repeat this alert process up to six times as you are repeatedly flagged for violations because you love illegal downloads.
The alerts will start as innocuous little messages (Good morning! Did you know that you can purchase Bridesmaids legally via iTunes?) and grow increasingly severe as you are repeatedly flagged for infractions. By the time the fifth and six alerts roll around, at least one service provider has vowed to reduce your connection speed to something just a little faster than dial-up as punishment. It will be like you are watching your pirated Downton Abbey in 1921, because the service will be so slow.