New copyright center ready to fire on pirates (exclusive)

The Center for Copyright Information will soon make its debut. The CCI will work with ISPs, music labels, and film studios to implement controversial graduated-response program.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read
Some of the nation's biggest ISPs and entertainment companies will soon unveil the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) Greg Sandoval/CNET

The major film studios and music companies will soon unveil plans for a "copyright center," an organization designed to oversee the implementation of the controversial graduated-response program, CNET has learned.

Last July, when some of the country's top Internet service providers, including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, agreed to begin implementing a series of measures designed to discourage illegal file-sharing, the ISPs said they and the entertainment companies would establish a Center for Copyright Information (CCI) to "assist in the effort to combat online infringement."

The ISPs, major record labels, and Hollywood film studios are expected soon to name the person in charge of the CCI. CNET has learned that one of the leading candidates for the job is Jill Lesser, managing director of lobbying and public policy firm The Glover Park Group. She is also a member of the board at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit group that advocates for free speech on the Web.

According to her bio, Lesser has focused on "copyright, consumer protection, and telecommunications policy issues for clients in the media industry." She could not be immediately be reached for comment. Spokesmen for the MPAA and RIAA declined to comment.

Some of CCI's duties will include educating the public about copyright law and the potential consequences of violations. Administrators will help evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation measures, the ability of entertainment companies to accurately identify violators and pitching the graduate response program to non-participating ISPs.

Antipiracy experts at the studios and music labels say that the graduated-response program is vital to protecting movies and music. They believe that since ISPs are the gatekeepers of the Internet, they are in best position to thwart illegal file sharing. A graduated-response program is supposed to begin with the ISPs sending a series of letters to customers who are flagged for allegedly downloading pirated songs or films. The letters will endeavor to educate the accused that downloading unauthorized content is illegal. The ISPs will then gradually begin ratcheting up the pressure for those who are alleged to have committed multiple piracy infractions.

When the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America announced the coming program last July, they said they would eventually create a "Center for Copyright Information," which would focus on educating subscribers on piracy and the legal ways to obtain movies and music online.

Sources in the entertainment industry say that the center will also try to work as a liaison between the ISPs and the entertainment companies. The ISPs have not come to antipiracy easily. They are wary of alienating customers, and a music-industry source said that people on the entertainment side are worried the ISPs don't have the stomach for a fight on graduated response.

Lesser, or whoever is hired to oversee CCI, likely faces many challenges in keeping the peace between the ISPs and entertainment companies. One thing that might help is that sources close to the planning say that CCI's advisory board will likely include some people from tech and organizations traditionally critical of the copyright stances taken by film studios and record labels.

Update 3:04 p.m. PT: The CCI has announced that it has indeed hired Lesser and announced the names of some interesting new advisory board members. Read the full story here.