Alleged documents obtained by TorrentFreak assert that Internet provider AT&T has begun internally training its personnel in a new anti-piracy campaign.
Warning notices will begin to be sent out on November 28, according to the documents. If subscribers are caught downloading content protected by intellectual copyright -- including videos, games and music -- they can expect to have access to frequently visited Web sites blocked.
So, can a subscriber expect a court summons to arrive in the mail? Perhaps not, at least, for now. Instead, you'll have to complete an "online copyright course," according to TorrentFreak, although there are no details on what this entails.
The documents tell the company's staff about the upcoming changes in policy, beginning with an overview:
In an effort to assist content owners with combating on-line piracy, AT&T will be sending alert e-mails to customers who are identified as having been downloading copyrighted content without authorization from the copyright owner.
The reports are made by the content owners and are of IP-addresses that are associated with copyright-infringing activities. AT&T will not share any personally identifiable information about its customers with content owners until authorized by the customer or required to do so by law.
But what happens when you reach a fifth or sixth warning? Bang, say goodbye to The Pirate Bay or your favorite cyber-locker. If you want the block lifted, you'll be redirected to the online course, which will work hard to rectify your knowledge on IP laws. If it reaches this point, however, the situation might change. As the alleged documents note: "After the fifth alert, the content owner may pursue legal action against the customer, and may seek a court order requiring AT&T to turn over personal information to assist the litigation".
VPNs and proxies aside, AT&T is unlikely to be the only Internet provider that will embark on some kind of anti-piracy plan that will impact consumers. Last year, the MPAA and RIAA signed up with AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon to create the Center for Copyright Information in the United States.
Under the terms of the center, each ISP is allowed to warn and punish subscribers for breaking the law. However, each Internet provider is bound to inform copyright holders about repeat offenders. If a court grants a subpoena to the MPAA and RIAA, then personal details can be handed over and you can expect to find yourself in front of a judge after downloading "Game of Thrones."