In the first nationwide survey of online copyright infringement, more than 4 million Americans use the sites, including 1.6 million on the peer-to-peer file sharing service BitTorrent, according to the Center for Copyright Information.
The survey was conducted by the nonprofit Public Knowledge, which is a non-profit research group that monitors online infringement.
The researchers also identified hundreds of thousands of files that have been shared by more than 500,000 users, which represents an unprecedented amount of online sharing.
Public Knowledge President and CEO Robert Levy said that his organization was also concerned that “large corporations like Netflix and YouTube were using their resources to push for new copyright law that would give them unprecedented access to consumers.”
In order to combat online piracy and other online copyright violations, the Copyright Office is expanding its powers to include a provision that would allow the agency to enforce copyright law against Internet service providers, including ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, according a letter sent to Congress by Levy and Public Knowledge Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman.
The provision, known as Section 201, would apply to providers of broadband services, like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, as well as content delivery networks, like Google Fiber.
The provision is intended to ensure that Internet service provider content is not blocked or slowed down by ISPs, according the letter.
The new rules would apply only to providers who have engaged in the practice of blocking or slowing access to copyrighted content, according Public Knowledge.
But Levy said the bill’s provision would apply even if ISPs fail to do so.
“The fact that they’re engaging in the conduct of blocking and slowing content doesn’t change the fact that it violates the DMCA,” Levy said.
“So, it’s very clear the law does not apply to ISPs, which means that if they are engaged in that conduct, then they’re breaking the law.”
Public Knowledge is asking Congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which would grant ISPs new authority to regulate Internet content and would give the agency broad authority to take action against Internet providers that engage in copyright violations.
“As the bill moves forward, the Public Knowledge coalition is encouraging the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up the Digital Copyright Enforcement Act, a comprehensive, comprehensive bill that will expand the law to protect our rights online,” Levy wrote in the letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
The Copyright Office’s proposed changes to Section 201 would go into effect next year.
It is not clear when the new copyright rules would take effect.
Copyright enforcement is a sensitive issue in the digital economy.
The industry relies heavily on online sharing sites to serve up content, and ISPs are frequently criticized for blocking, slowing or otherwise interfering with their customers’ ability to access content.
Internet service providers like Comcast are often criticized for being slow to respond to complaints about copyright violations by users, and they are subject to a number of lawsuits.
In April, a federal judge in California, Judge William Alsup, said that ISPs like AT&G, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and others were engaging in unlawful “infringement” of copyright, and ordered them to pay a record $100 million in damages.