There’s been quite a freak out on tumblr but not a lot of more info on what it actually does beyond the six strikes. So let me start by saying that the Copyright System only monitors peer-to-peer traffic from public BitTorrent trackers. Let me repeat that: only public BitTorrent trackers. So it will not track that download you got from Rapidgator, Usenet, Dropbox, or even a private BitTorrent tracker. Also, this is not a government initiative. To quote the Center for Copyright Information:
Our members include artists and content creators like the members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as well as independent filmmakers and record producers represented by the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), and 5 major Internet service providers – AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. Our leadership also includes an Advisory Board made up of consumer advocates, privacy specialists and technology policy experts.
Your ISP won’t even give up your personal information to the content partners unless it’s required by law through a subpoena or court order, which is still the way it’s always been. The alert system, in a nutshell, is aimed towards people that don’t know that pirating is bad and awful and we should all just stop. They realize this system probably won’t prevent repeat offenders. Here’s a really good article explaining how it works, but basically, once you’re past the six strikes (each ISP has different steps depending on the number of times you’ve done it) there aren’t any further steps. Now, this won’t prevent subpeonas from copyright holders such as the RIAA, but this has always been a danger, since we all know, downloading pirated material is illegal.
There are ways to try to circumvent it though. I mentioned the other ways of downloading that weren’t being monitored, but VPNS are another alternative as well. LifeHacker has compiled a handy list of VPNs and even has information on each one’s data logging policy, because we all want to make sure our information isn’t stored.
Let me just reiterate, though, the Copyright Alert System is definitely awful (and by all means, please sign!!!!), but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the internet as we know it.