Back in 2009, France passed a “three strikes” law, which cuts off a person’s internet access after three documented instances of illegally downloading copyrighted material. So when I heard about the new six strikes system (officially the Copyright Alert System) being implemented in the United States, I assumed it was the same type of thing but with three extra warnings.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. First off, participation by ISPs is voluntary, unlike in France and other countries where it’s a legal requirement. And so far only a few ISPs have decided to take part: Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, Verizon, and Cablevision.
Second, the punishment is not a total loss of internet access; rather, it’s typically a temporary reduction in connection speed or the temporary blocking of certain websites. The specific punitive measures, as well as when they take effect, are decided by each ISP. But in no case will internet service be suspended.
The system was scheduled to go live last Fall, but has been postponed until early 2013.
Update: [1/13/2013] Slashdot has the details of Verizon’s six strikes policy.