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ISP: Copyright alert system meant to educate, not punish

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BATON ROUGE - In efforts to curb illegal downloading and file-sharing on-line, a number of Internet companies are initiating an educational approach to help customers understand their actions.

It's called the Copyright Alert System. Providers including AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner and Comcast, with the help of copyright holders, will begin monitoring Internet usage by residential customers starting today.

AT&T says, "We believe this program will help customers better understand what they can do to discourage digital piracy."

Brandon Armentor says he's concerned the monitoring will infringe on his privacy.

"I don't believe that they should be monitoring what I'm doing," said Armentor. "I'm giving them my hard-working money."

The new system will alert customers of illegal activity by email or browser. Customers have six strikes to stop the illegal activity. After four warnings, customers are required to view an educational site about illegal downloading on-line. If the problem persists, the company may throttle their internet connection.

John Brooks, producer for Firebrand Games Louisiana, says this will have limited effects on the amount of piracy, since there are already alternative systems.

"It is primarily aimed at home users and casual down-loaders at that," said Brooks. "But it does have implications for any business using an unsecured Wi-Fi network such as those at coffee shops and the like."

Officials involved admit it's unlikely to stop the biggest violators.

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