Comcast Contemplating Anti-Piracy System That Suggests Legal Downloads

By Wesley Fenlon

Hey! Stop stealing that movie. Wouldn't you rather watch it on XFINITY ON DEMAND?

Some Internet services have discovered two things about piracy: The best way to combat it is with convenience, and it's better to make some money off pirates than none at all. iTunes music locker service iTunes Match is a good example of the latter. It wrings at least $25 out of people who have been collecting MP3s since the Napster days. A new plan from Comcast to combat piracy sounds similar, though it might not make content cheap enough to woo would-be pirates.

Variety reports that Comcast is talking with TV and movie studios and other ISPs about a system that would offer pirates a legal alternative while they're downloading a file. The site elaborates "a consumer illegally downloading a film or movie from a peer-to-peer system would be quickly pushed a pop-up message with links to purchase or rent the same content, whether the title in question exists on the VOD library of a participating distributor’s own broadband network or on a third-party seller like Amazon."

The second half of that sentence gets to the problem still facing a lot of video delivery services: They often don't have all the content people want. Deals from movie and TV studios that keep content exclusive to one streaming solution or another don't help those services turn more people away from piracy.

Comcast's proposed system would likely complement the existing six strikes Copyright Alert System. If it proved more effective, it could even be a replacement--and given that copyright infringement notifications can show up long after the offense takes place, the real-time speed of Comcast's proposed system could well be more effective. It would also move away from punishing illegal downloads and instead focusing on the solution, and educating the few Internet users who don't even know they're downloading something illegally.

The idea seems like a move in a positive direction, but it also raises questions about how closely Comcast would be monitoring its users' Internet traffic.


Variety writes "CAS and the new approach share a basic framework in that the ISP role is largely automated, notifying offending users based on information derived from the content companies who have a third party pulling the IP addresses of those downloading copyright-infringing material."

Under the new system, Comcast and other ISPs wouldn't get a cut of the profits from people encouraged to buy content, but they would potentially lighten the load on their networks. And, of course, Comcast owns NBC Universal, so there's still profit in it for them.