Copyright Alert Enforcement: Six Strikes and Privacy Harms

Depoorter, Ben; Van Hiel, Alain

Copyright holders have deployed a wide range of enforcement strategies this past decade. In an initial, punitive stage, content industries targeted individual copyright infringers by way of an extensive settlement demand campaign and obtained statutory damage awards in a few high profile file-sharing lawsuits. Recently however, copyright holders drastically reversed course, abandoning punitive measures in favor of a “copyright information approach” that enlists Internet service providers into sending copyright infringement notifications to subscribers. Commentators have welcomed this shift towards copyright alert systems as providing a more balanced approach to copyright enforcement that might improve copyright law’s normative acceptance. Copyright industries are optimistic that the new copyright alert system will increase copyright awareness and decrease copyright infringing behavior. This Article shows that the optimism with copyright law’s recent developments is misplaced. Based on social science research and insights from an empirical study conducted for this Article, we argue that architects of the copyright alert system have underestimated the robustness of social norms and have failed to anticipate the negative reactions to a copyright information system, in particular as relating to privacy harms.


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Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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November 21, 2016