AT&T says it will not cut users off from the Internet who are suspected of illegally downloading copyrighted material, even though its copyright warning letter says it could.
On Friday, the TorrentFreak blog published AT&T’s Copyright Alert System (CAS) warning sent to people it believes are swapping movies, songs, books, etc., from the Internet without paying for them.
The letter warned that illegally downloading was a violation of AT&T’s terms and it could result in “a limitation of Internet access or even suspension or termination” of the account. In other words, AT&T said the user could be cut off from the Internet.
That was a shocker.
This letter is part of the “six strikes” plan that went into effect last February, where the nation’s largest ISPs send warnings to those they think are breaking copyright law.
Six strikes is supposed to be all about education. Repeat violators are not supposed to be cut off from the Internet. They are to be temporarily redirected to another page, where they will be required to view educational materials on copyright. Once they do that, the person will be released and free to go about their Internet business.
AT&T has specifically and repeatedly promised that it’s not cutting users off from the Internet as part of “six strikes.”
So we contacted AT&T and and asked why the warning includes this threat.
A spokesperson explained that the letter is telling people what could happen should the person actually be found guilty of illegal downloading under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by a court of law.
Because the six strikes warnings are only allegations, AT&T promises it won’t take these actions.
If the person has completed the required educational course and AT&T suspects the person is still illegally downloading, after six warnings nothing will happen, a source close to the company told us. That is, unless a copyright holder takes the person to court over it.
Here’s the full response that AT&T sent to us:
As we have previously stated, AT&T’s implementation of the CAS program does not involve terminating (or slowing) customers’ Internet accounts. The text of the Alert you saw on TorrentFreak on Friday contains a phrase about termination for repeat infringers, which refers to our existing Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor obligations to have a policy to terminate “repeat infringers” in appropriate circumstances. CAS alerts are in response to allegations of infringement rather than conclusive determinations of infringement by a court.