Hollywood formally brings ISPs into the anti-piracy fight

Jill Lesser, an executive with experience with copyright, Internet and consumer issues, takes over an effort aimed at getting Internet providers to police copyright.

The country's top Internet service providers, along with major film and recorded music companies, announced that they have hired the person who will oversee their joint antipiracy efforts, scheduled to begin this summer.

Earlier today, CNET reported that Jill Lesser, who is currently managing director of the Glover Park Group, a lobbying and public policy firm, was the leading candidate to run the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the organization that will help support the antipiracy program known as graduated response.

The ISPs and entertainment companies confirmed that Lesser has been appointed executive director of CCI. They also said CCI's advisory board will include a large number of privacy and technology advocates, including Jerry Berman, chairman of the Internet Education Foundation and founder of the Center for Democracy and Technology; Marsali Hancock, president of iKeepSafe.org; Jules Polenetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum; and Gigi Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge.

In addition, CCI has hired the American Arbitration Association to manage the review process for its so-called graduated response program.

Antipiracy experts at the studios and music labels say the graduated-response program is vital to protecting movies and music from online piracy. They believe that since ISPs are the gatekeepers of the Internet, they are in best position to thwart illegal file sharing.

Under graduated response, entertainment companies will notify a participating ISP that a customer has allegedly been pirating movies or TV shows illegally. The bandwidth provider will then send a notice intended to educate the customer about the consequences of downloading unauthorized content.

The ISP is then supposed to begin gradually ratcheting up the pressure on customers who ignore the warnings. Eventually, ISPs can choose to suspend service. Graduated response, however, does not include the termination of service. Customers wrongly accused can appeal to their company and can take their case to the arbitration group for review.

The inclusion of technology and privacy advocates is an attempt by the entertainment companies to shield graduated response from criticism, according to sources from the film and music sectors.

The hope is that by giving a say to tech and privacy leaders, graduated response will avoid running into the same hurricane of opposition that scuttled the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act.

Those were antipiracy bills that copyright owners tried to get passed in Congress but were derailed when the technology sector began to whip up opposition. The film and movie sectors did not seek input from tech companies and this cost them. But it remains to be seen how much say that members of the advisory board will have on CCI's operations.

CCI's six-member board of directors, which holds all the power, includes only representatives from the entertainment companies and ISPs. Certainly, if the advisory board isn't happy with CCI's direction and members' concerns aren't being addressed, we'll hear about it.

"It was not an easy decision for me to join this Advisory Board," Sohn said in a statement. "I did so because I saw the need to be an advocate for the rights of Internet users and to provide transparency."

Sohn said that one of the first things she wants to see once CCI is up and running is to abolish any kind of service suspension.

"I will ask at the appropriate time," Sohn said, "for the ISPs to promise not to interpret the agreement's 'temporary restriction' provision as allowing for suspension of user Internet accounts."

 

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