U.S. Government's Anti-Piracy 'Six Strike' Conversations Remain Secret

A federal judge won't order the U.S. government to hand over more documents relating to the adoption of the Copyright Alert System.

After years of discussion between entertainment trade groups and leading Internet service providers, the Copyright Alert System went into effect in February. It's more commonly known as the "Six Strike Policy," thanks to its graduated penalty system where internet users identified as making content available illegally through their connection are first sent warning notices and eventually can have their bandwidth throttled.

Chris Soghoian, a policy analyst at the ACLU, pushed to uncover more information about the program and the government's role in fostering cooperation that lead to the adoption of the Copyright Alert System. He's only found limited success.

After filing a request for documents based on the Freedom of Information Act, Soghoian has been able to attain some information on how Obama administration officials helped broker negotiations between the entertainment industry and ISPs. He's obtained documents that show which officials -- including Vice President Joe Biden's deputy chief of staff and the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel -- were involved.

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But the U.S. government resisted Sogholan's full requests on documents.

Some of the information not turned over relate to discussions about the "Memorandum of Understanding" between the MPAA, RIAA and ISPs; the potential costs and risks associated with the Copyright Alert System; and other opinions and recommendations that didn't end up in the final agreement.

On Tuesday, Judge Royce Lamberth in the District of Columbia gave the Office of Management and Budget a summary judgment victory, agreeing with the government that some of the information provided by the entertainment industry are commercial secrets.

As for other communications -- such as emails from Espinel preparing an Obama administration response to the developing industry agreement -- the judge concludes that government officials require some space when formulating policy.

Judge Lamberth writes, "Protecting documents pertaining to the deliberative process here serves the underlying policy objectives of avoiding disclosure of proposed policies prior to their adoption and reducing the possibility of misleading the public by disclosing documents that suggest certain reasons for a future decision that do not ultimately bear upon that decision."

Here's the full decision.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner