The Three Strikes Copyright Infringement [All to Know]

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three strikes copyright infringement

Unauthorized distribution of digital content and online piracy still represent a major challenge for the creative industries that rely on copyright protection. 

Thoughtfully, some countries adopted a three-strikes aka graduated response policy to fight this problem.

This approach intends to discourage and penalize individuals who repeatedly engage in copyright infringement on the internet.

With tons of content being shared via illegal sites or through P2P connections, this should come as no surprise.

So, what’s this three-strike copyright infringement policy, and what countries adopted it? 

Keep reading to find out all you need about it.

What is the Three Strikes policy (Graduated response)?

The Three Strikes policy, also known as graduated response, is a system of penalties for copyright infringement designed to deter repeat offenders

It targets individuals who are repeatedly infringing copyright.

This includes illegally downloading or sharing copyrighted content like movies, music, software, or books, without permission from the copyright holders. 

In practice, the Three Strikes policy typically involves a series of 3 escalating steps. 

  1. The Warning – when the government or authorities suspect an individual of engaging in copyright infringement, this individual will receive a warning – a letter or email about their violation and potential consequences.
  2. Warnings and penalties – when the individual is caught engaging in copyright infringement for the second time, they’ll get yet another warning along with penalties, most commonly fines.
  3. Suspension – the third and last strike will result in a temporary suspension of internet access, a permanent ban on the platform, or even jail time.

The policy aims to address the issue of intellectual property rights violations and protect the interests of content creators and copyright owners. 

Over time, copyright holders worldwide made numerous efforts to protect their rights and fight illegal file-sharing online. 

One potential solution that emerged was the Three Strikes Policy (3SP).

The name has its origin in baseball, where a batter gets three strikes before completing their turn at bat.

It was initially introduced in certain U.S. states like California in the early 2000s.

In 2009, the French government later adopted it to protect the copyright of digital creators.

New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan are among the other countries that also embraced this policy, while Germany, Hong Kong, Spain, and Sweden have rejected it.

Unsuprisignly, implementing the 3SP came with its own set of legal complexities. 

For example, in the Netherlands in 2005, a court ruled that ISPs could not be compelled to disclose subscriber information without a court order. 

Also, in 2008, the German Federal Constitutional Court decided that ISPs could only share such information in serious criminal investigations.

But despite the challenges, several countries eventually enacted the three-strikes policy. 

France was one of the first European countries to pass a law in 2010 allowing ISPs to limit or suspend internet access for subscribers who received three warning letters for copyright infringement. 

The United Kingdom followed suit in 2011 with a similar law.

The policy successfully reduced infringement activities

Talking about the effectiveness of the three-strikes policy, it has mixed results. 

In France, it was credited with reducing copyright infringement, with around 65% of individuals surveyed indicating a decrease in unauthorized content consumption. 

Similarly, in the UK, 70% of customers ceased their infringement activities within six months after receiving the initial notice, and 16% stopped after the second notice.

However, the three-strikes policy has faced criticism on various fronts. Critics argue that it is ineffective, unfair, and infringes privacy rights

For instance. The UK government uses website blocking, speed or data traffic limitations, and content identification and filtering to detect and block individuals. 

As a result, privacy concerns arise from the collection and sharing of personal data by ISPs without explicit consent. This could be detrimental to innocent users, that don’t engage in copyright infringement.

Consequently, individuals often use virtual private networks (VPNs) to encrypt their data and hide their IP addresses.

Which countries have adopted the graduated response policy?

Seven countries have adopted the Graduated Response policy, but only six are still active to date.

Also, they vary in their approaches and implementations.

Here is a list of them.

1. France

France was one of the first countries to adopt a graduated response policy in 2009, with the creation of the Hadopi Agency. 

The agency was responsible for sending warnings to infringers and imposing sanctions if they did not comply.

These sanctions ranged from fines to suspension of internet access for up to one year

However, the policy was controversial and faced legal challenges, as well as criticism for its effectiveness and cost.

Consequently, in 2013, the French government announced plans to reform the policy and replace the suspension of internet access with a fine system.

Overall, the policy has been credited with reducing copyright infringement rates in the country.

2. South Korea

South Korea implemented a graduated response policy in 2009 under the Copyright Protection Act

The policy required ISPs to send two warnings to infringers, followed by a third notice that would suspend internet access for up to six months.

Also, it allowed for the possibility of imposing fines or criminal charges for serious infringement cases. 

While some praised the policy as a deterrent to piracy and a boost for the creative industries, others criticized it as violating privacy and freedom of expression.

3. The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom passed the Digital Economy Act in 2010, which included provisions for a graduated response policy. 

The policy required ISPs to send educational letters to infringers, informing them of their actions and directing them to legal content sources. 

The policy also allowed for imposing technical measures such as bandwidth throttling or blocking access to certain websites if infringement persisted

However, the implementation of the policy was delayed by legal disputes and technical difficulties.

In 2017, the UK government announced that it would not pursue the technical measures and instead focus on voluntary agreements with ISPs and content providers.

4. Taiwan

Taiwan introduced a Graduated Response Policy in 2009 as a component of its Intellectual Property Rights Protection Act

As per this policy, ISPs must issue a maximum of three warnings to their customers accused of online infringement by rights holders. 

Upon receiving the third warning, they must suspend or terminate the internet access of the offender. At times, repeat offenders may face civil or criminal penalties.

 Taiwan implemented the policy in 2010 and it remains in operation to this day.

5. New Zealand

New Zealand emerged as an early adopter of the three-strikes policy, although its implementation was temporarily postponed to establish a code of practice for a month.

Upon receiving the third notice, the rights holder can seek a penalty of up to NZ$15,000 through the Copyright Tribunal. 

The law permits account suspension as a last resort. Enacted in 2011, the law remains in effect to date.

6. Ireland (Voluntary)

In 2010, Ireland implemented a voluntary graduated response scheme after a legal agreement between the Irish Recorded Music Association and the country’s largest internet service provider (ISP), Eircom

This scheme entails issuing a maximum of three warnings to individuals accused of infringement, followed by a seven-day suspension of their internet access

Subsequently, they expanded the scheme to include other ISPs, including UPC and Vodafone. As of now, the graduated response scheme continues to be in effect.

7. United States (Voluntary)

The United States doesn’t have a law that mandates a graduated response policy, but it had a voluntary program called the Copyright Alert System (CAS) starting in 2013

A group of Internet service providers (ISPs) and content industry organizations created this program. 

The CAS aimed to address copyright infringement by sending up to six alerts to people accused of infringement, each getting more serious. 

These alerts included educational messages, warnings, and options for resolving disputes. The CAS did not involve account suspension or termination.

However, the program was discontinued in 2017 after it was found to have limited effectiveness and impact.

In addition to the policies enforced by various countries, YouTube also has its own copyright strike policy. 

This policy protects the rights of content creators and copyright holders.

Plus, it outlines the consequences for individuals or channels that violate copyright laws on the platform. Here’s all you need to know about it.

It is a formal notification that the copyright holder or YouTube issues to indicate that a video or channel infringes upon someone’s copyright. 

When that happens, it warns the uploader that their content has violated copyright laws.

YouTube copyright infringement has had various negative impacts on creators over time. These include:

  • Loss of income due to ad revenue being either lost or redirected to the rights’ owner.
  • Videos being blocked, muted, or taken down entirely.
  • Potential legal consequences or strikes that can jeopardize a creator’s channel.
  • Dealing with false or abusive claims that are difficult to dispute or appeal.

For example, Gamefromscratch, a channel that provides news and tutorials on game development, faced multiple false claims from a company called Enodo Games.

Youtube eventually locked and demonetized the channel as a result of the claim.

Also, TheFatRat, a popular music producer, had his song “The Calling” claimed by an individual named Ramjets

This person falsely posed as the rights owner and refused to release the claim.

YouTube takes copyright infringement seriously and has implemented a three-strike system. 

Here is how it works and the consequences:

1. First copyright strike

When a video or channel receives its first copyright strike, YouTube takes action by warning the uploader

The copyright holder can also take additional action, such as blocking the video or monetizing it for themselves. 

However, the first strike does not result in any immediate penalties for the uploader.

2. Second copyright strike

YouTube imposes stricter penalties if a video or channel receives a second copyright strike within a specific timeframe (usually within 90 days of the first strike).

The uploader cannot upload any new content for a set period, typically two weeks to three months. 

Additionally, they may temporarily disable certain features like live streaming.

3. Third copyright strike

A third copyright strike within the designated timeframe leads to severe consequences. 

Youtube may permanently terminate the channel, and the uploader will lose access to all associated content, subscribers, and features.

It is important to note that YouTube’s decision regarding a third copyright strike is final, and there is no option for appeal.

Difference between a strike and a claim

While copyright strikes involve formal notifications issued by a holder or YouTube, copyright claims differ.

A copyright claim is a less severe action a copyright holder takes to assert their rights over specific content.

When copyright holders file a claim, they can choose to monetize the video by running ads on it, mute certain sections, or blocking it in specific regions. 

The uploader is usually notified of the claim, and the outcome depends on the copyright holder’s chosen actions.

It’s worth noting that multiple copyright claims on a video may result in a copyright strike if YouTube’s automated system or manual review process says the claims are valid.


The Three Strikes copyright infringement policy, or Graduated Response, emerged to combat copyright violations in the digital era. 

Various countries, including France, New Zealand, and South Korea, have adopted this policy to deter and penalize repeated copyright infringers. 

Moreover, all over the world, Internet Service Providers throttle traffic when they detect potentially illegal activity.

This includes torrenting, which isn’t always illegal. For this reason, many people who do this decide to use a P2P VPN to prevent speed throttling.

Additionally, YouTube has its own version of the Three Strikes policy to enforce copyright compliance on its platform.

While the effectiveness and impact of the Three Strikes Copyright Infringement Policy is an ongoing debate, it reflects the ongoing efforts to protect the rights of content creators and copyright holders.

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