By: Nkosi Nurse, Staff Writer.

The newest attempt to curb illegal downloading, the Copyright Alert System, went live on February 25, 2013.

When a friend first told me about the Copyright Alert System being run by my Internet provider I began to fear that my own provider might be purposely tracking the sites my computer visited, an invasion of privacy that had me more than a little uncomfortable.

I decided to take a closer look and was shocked to learn it was less a privacy smashing attempt to stop piracy and more of a mild attempt by internet providers to nag you into doing the right thing. So for those of you who haven’t read up on it yet, here’s a quick overview of the CAS and how it hopes to stop piracy.

The Copyright Alert System is not an actual law but a concerted attempt by internet providers AT&T, Cablevision, Time Warner, Verizon, and Comcast and multiple media industries to educate and dissuade their clients from illegal downloading. The system will use a graduated response system where for every detected infraction the subscriber will receive a strike.

As the strikes begin to accumulate the means of dealing with them begin to  get more and more difficult. For example while the first two alerts generally involve trying to educate the consumer to use legal ways of obtaining entertainment media, continued infractions will result in mitigation alerts. Mitigation alerts impose a minor consequence to the subscriber and vary by internet provider.

These may include temporarily capping your Internet speed, redirection to a landing page until you contact your provider, or a 24-hour suspension of Internet services. You can receive up to 6 strikes before a mitigation alert, but this too varies by provider.

While continued infractions may get you momentarily penalized, the Center for Copyright Information website states “providers currently have no intention of cutting off or blacklisting subscribers.” They do however maintain the right to do so and if no alerts are received for a year then your record of notices will be cleared.

In the event that you find yourself wrongly accused by the CAS you have an opportunity to challenge the alert once it reaches the mitigation stage by requesting a review by the American Arbitration Association. This will however cost you a $35 filing fee, which will only be returned to you if your appeal is successful.

For those of you worried that your providers will be tracking the sites you visit you can be at peace. Detection of piracy will be up to content owners who will be joining peer to peer sites to monitor if their property is being shared without their permission. If they believe an IP address has downloaded their property they will then alert the subscribers’ service provider.

Another fear is that Wi-Fi hotspots will be constantly under attack by the alert system. However, this fear is unnecessary as public Wi-Fi hotspots will be exempt from the alert system. But be warned while downloading at Wi-Fi hotspots will allow you to avoid the CAS system, the RIAA and MPAA are still searching for illegal downloaders.

For those hoping to bypass the alert system the only remaining courses of options are transferring to a service provider not taking part in the CAS system, or to get really comfortable doing all of your downloading at your local Starbucks.

While the CAS may make getting access to media a little bit harder, it may wind up saving you thousands of dollars in fines.