On July 1, 2012 television, movie, music businesses, as well as major Communications Service Providers (CSPs) in the US (including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable) started implementing a voluntary Copyright Alert System, often referred to as the “6-strikes rule” to reduce online copyright infringement in the US. The agreement seeks to create balance between rights to privacy as well as rights to content, an argument which had put the CSPs in the middle.
Previous to this agreement, using the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a content holder would typically go to a CSP and request the identity of a suspected infringer, and then notify them directly. This had lead to a large number of blanket lawsuits and a large amount of work for the CSP to lookup who had a specific IP address at some time, which is why the Copyright Alert System was created.
So how does the identification of suspected copyright infringement occur? Is your ISP snooping on you? In a nutshell: the detection is done by a 3rd party, not by your ISP and it is done off the network. To answer this question more thoroughly, let’s first look at how that information is collected, by examining how one of the most popular P2P filesharing networks works – BitTorrent.