The United States Internet Service provider Suddenlink has effectively implemented a three-strikes policy for repeated copyright infringers. After three DMCA notices, alleged copyright infringers are disconnected from the Internet for six months, without a refund. According to a company representative, the DMCA requires them to take such drastic measures.
Just a few days ago France started warning thousands of file-sharers as part of the controversial Hadopi anti-piracy law that was introduced there earlier this year. Upon receiving their third warning, alleged copyright infringers will lose their internet connection for several weeks.
Across the pond in the United States, there is an Internet provider that has single-handedly implemented a similar scheme. Suddenlink, one of the top 10 cable companies in the country, disconnects subscribers for six months after they have received three DMCA notices. According to a company representative, Suddenlink is required to take this action under the DMCA.
We have been in contact with one of the customers who had his Internet connection disconnected for three alleged copyright violations. The affected subscriber provided detailed chatlogs with Suddenlink where the following explanation for the drastic measure is given.
Customer: I want to reconnect my internet service. They said I got 3 DMCA letters and they said that by law I had to be disconnected. Is that true?
Suddenlink rep: Yes, your internet was disconnected due to DMCA. When the internet is disconnected due to DMCA, it can not be reconnected for a minimum of 6 months.
Customer: The DMCA makes that requirement?
Suddenlink rep: Yes.
Customer: So you’re stating, for the record, that by law, the DMCA law, that you have to disconnect users for receiving 3 DMCA letters?
Suddenlink rep: You have no choice in the matter.
Suddenlink rep: It is the DMCA policy that it can not be reconnected for 6 months.
Suddenlink rep: It may be the DMCA policy or it may be the way we go about following the DMCA guidelines.
Customer: The law states that?
Suddenlink rep: Once the 3rd offense occurs, it can not be reconnected for 6 months.
Suddenlink Rep: The information I have on the DMCA states: This law was enacted in 1998 to protect against illegal downloading of copyrighted material like movies, music, etc. As an Internet Service Provider (ISP), Suddenlink , and other ISPs, must implement a policy of terminating internet service of customers who repeatedly share copyrighted files.
The explanation given above is pure nonsense of course. The DMCA does not and never has required ISPs to disconnect users. For some reason Suddenlink customer support was told to communicate this lie to its users. What is true, however, is that Suddenlink will disconnect subscribers after three alleged warnings.
We contacted the company and we were told that this measure is hidden in their Terms of Service. Although there is no word about a three-strikes policy, we did find the following sentence that could be used to justify the disconnections.
“If you continue to transfer Copyrighted Material illegally, you are violating Suddenlink’s policies and Suddenlink may take further action, including limiting your Internet download capacity, suspending or terminating your account, or a range of other measures.”
In reality, this means that subscribers will be disconnected from the Internet for 6 months without a refund. The subscriber we talked to was informed about the penalty over the phone and never received any documents to back it up.
Although Suddenlink’s three-strikes policy is the most extreme, the company is not the only US Internet provider that has implemented it. Cox is using a similar scheme, but with the major difference that the disconnection is limited to a few hours, not six months.
Disconnecting users based on claims of copyright holders and without any form of trial seems to be an extreme measure for a company that provides such an essential service as Internet access. Suddenlink told us that they are within their rights, just like Comcast said two years ago when they started blocking BitTorrent traffic.