March 4, 2013 at 4:15 PM ET
A new copyright alert system should not affect open Wi-Fi connections, like those at coffee shops, although not everyone is in agreement about that.
The new system, which kicked in last week, is being used by five major Internet service providers in the U.S. to target users who illegally share music, movies or TV shows online. Those users will get up to six warnings before action is taken, including possibly slowing down their Internet service.
The Center for Copyright Infringement, which is rolling out the system, "claims that the Copyright Alert System won't harm open wireless, but based on Internet service providers' recent announcements, it looks like this is far from true," Adi Kamdar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told NBC News.
"The program includes locking down one's open wireless network as a thorough way of preventing copyright infringement. We don't think the interests of the content industry should trump good Internet practices and policy."
The Center for Copyright Infringement, whose members include Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), as well as ISPs AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, sees the alert system as an education effort aimed at home users. (NBC News is part of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast, a provider of cable TV and broadband Internet access.)
Jill Lesser, executive director of the CCI, has written in a blog post that residential Internet accounts "are the focus of our program. The vast majority of businesses, including those like Starbucks that provide legitimate open Wi-Fi connections, will have an Internet connection that is tailored to a business operation and these business networks are not part of the CAS and will never be sent a copyright alert."
The "six strikes" plan, as some dub it, is still rolling out, and each ISP will handle those "strikes" differently.
If you're a Verizon customer, for example,it works like this, a spokesman told NBC News: The first time illegal file-sharing is detected, the user will get an alert via email first. The second time, there will be both an email and a voice message. The third, a popup will appear on your computer screen, where the user must acknowledge receipt of the message. The fifth time, you'll be asked to watch a video about piracy and to say that you understand the issue.
The sixth warning brings you a notification that there will be a temporary slowdown in your Internet speed, although it won't be automatic, the Verizon spokesman said. If you're working on a huge term paper, for example, or trying to get a business plan finished up, and need that super-fast Internet for the next 48 hours, you'll work out a time for that slower service with Verizon.