The launch of the Copyright Alert System (CAS) to police illegal downloading has been put on hold until early next year due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

The Center for Copyright Information (CCI), co-ordinator of the program, has announced storm damage has put its testing behind schedule.

“CCI anticipates that the participating ISPs will begin sending alerts under the Copyright Alert System in the early part of 2013, rather than by the end of the year,” says CCI executive director Jill Lesser in a statement.

“Our goal has always been to implement the program in a manner that educates consumers about copyright and peer-to-peer networks, encourages the use of legal alternatives, safeguards customer privacy, and provides an easy-to-use independent review program for consumers to challenge alerts they believe they’ve received in error.”

The CAS, which was first announced last July, will provide a standardized approach that all ISPs will use. Under the system, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and other Internet service providers send a succession of warnings to users who allegedly share copyrighted files through peer-to-peer networks. If users continue to download illegally, ISPs will introduce “mitigation measures.”

Those measures will differ from ISP to ISP. Although most ISPs have yet to reveal specifics, TorrentFreak reported that AT&T intends to punish users who receive a fifth and sixth alert by sending them to an educational page. To revoke access denial, AT&T customers must complete an “online education tutorial on copyright.”

A temporary slow-down of Internet access speed is another, potential punishment, Lesser wrote in an Oct. 18 blog post.

Despite worries to the contrary, “termination of a consumer’s Internet service is not a part of any ISP’s Copyright Alert System program,” Lesser wrote.

“This is not a ‘six-strikes-and-you’re-out’ system that would result in termination.  There’s no ‘strikeout’ in this program.”

Rather, the series of alerts is intended not only to make consumers conscious of illegal Internet activity connected to their accounts, but to offer information on how such activity can be prevented and provide information on accessing digital content legally, Lesser said.

The system will allow consumers to seek review of alerts they deem to be errors. Under the system, which the American Arbitration Association (AAA) will operate, consumers can ask “a trained, impartial professional” to review an alert.

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