When you sign up for services with an internet service provider (ISP), you agree to follow the provider's terms of service. These terms typically include a privacy policy, an acceptable use policy, and a list of other conditions governing your access to the service. Many internet service providers explicitly prohibit customers from using their resources to download pirated content, which is content that is copied or shared without the express permission of the copyright holder. Even if you follow the law and never download content illegally, you can still get in trouble with your ISP if anyone downloads pirated content from your IP address. Here is what you can expect if your ISP detects this type of behavior on your network.

DMCA Complaints

Every computer has a unique identifier known as an IP address. This address identifies your computer on a network. If someone downloads pirated content from your IP address, your ISP may receive a notice of infringement from the copyright holder. This is known as a DMCA takedown notice. DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that strengthened the protections available for digital forms of intellectual property. Examples include songs, albums, films, video games, books, and television shows. 

The takedown notice must include the name of the copyrighted work that has allegedly been infringed. For example, if someone uses your internet connection to download an episode of a television show, the DMCA takedown notice should include the name of the show, the title or number of the episode, and any other identifying information. Your home internet service provider will forward you a copy of the takedown notice. The notification from your ISP may include a reminder of the terms you agreed to when you signed up for your service.

Responding to Takedown Notices

In most cases, it is not necessary to respond to a takedown notice forwarded to you by your ISP; however, you should not ignore this notice. If you know that you did not download the pirated content, you should take this opportunity to ask the other people in your household if they downloaded the content. If everyone in your household denies pirating content, someone could be accessing your wireless network without your authorization. Now would be a good time to change your wireless password and contact your ISP to find out if there is anything else you can do to strengthen the security of your network. Taking these steps should prevent unauthorized users from accessing your wireless network and using it to copy or share copyrighted content.

Multiple Notices

Receiving a single notice of copyright infringement is usually not cause for concern, but make sure you take the steps outlined above to prevent unauthorized access to your network. If you have children in your home, explain to them the importance of purchasing content rather than pirating it. If someone continues to download pirated content from your IP address, you may be labeled a "repeat infringer" by your ISP. According to your ISP's terms of service, repeat infringers may have their accounts suspended or terminated. What action your ISP takes depends on the terms of service, how many notices of infringement have been received in relation to your account, and other factors. Xfinity, one of the largest ISPs in the United States, sometimes requires users to contact the company support team to discuss the takedown notices. Account suspension or termination may follow if the infringement continues after these initial steps have been taken.

If you're like most people, it would be difficult to live without internet service, especially if you work from home or use a streaming service to watch movies and television shows. Downloading pirated content can put your internet access at risk, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act contains several provisions that safeguard digital content against copyright infringement. If you receive a takedown notice from your ISP, take it seriously. Your internet service may be terminated if your ISP continues to receive takedown notices related to your account.