I have been doing a bit of research over the past few days, and have learned a few things that I believe any law/internet enthusiasts should make themselves aware of. I have compiled a few key points from various places that may be of interest to anyone reading this.
First of all, if you use your internet service to download copyrighted materials (especially movies), you may get a letter from your ISP, or even from a third-party group that will call you out on your activity, more likely than not citing the specific infraction(s) of which they have chosen to make themselves aware.
- If the letter you have received is from your ISP, there is much less reason to worry. Many big time ISP's, like Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, have agreed to a new system. If the RIAA, CCI, or anyone claiming copyright infringement can prove that an IP address on your network has infringed on a copyright (most likely via P2P/torrenting), then they can send a message to your ISP, who will in turn contact you in some way, most likely via letter or email, calling you out on the specific infringement. This means little in the way of your ISP. They may threaten you with reduced internet speeds, or even disconnection of your network, but this is usually an empty threat unless you are a more than 3x repeat offender. They will not give out your personal information without a subpoena from the copyright holder.
- If the letter you received is from a third-party company or law firm, or as they are called around the internet, "copyright trolls", you have slightly bigger problems. The contents of the letter will probably be a cease and desist type of thing, perhaps with a threat of taking you to court. Nobody wants to do that, even if they are innocent. Regardless, it might be in your best interest to be in contact with a lawyer. The letter will almost definitely also have an option for an out-of-court settlement, between $10-$3000, which is what they really want you to do. They really just want your money, and don't want to have to take you to court, because there is a slightly decent chance that they will lose.
In any case, major ISP's have agreed to a new system where they integrate their warning system into your browsing experience. The link provided is worth a read, and shows just how half-assed, redundant, and reluctantly forced this new obligation is. Recently, Windstream users have experienced a page redirection when using Firefox google search. Some believe that the ISP is testing a DPI (deep packet injection). I believe that this has to do with testing and implementation of services described in the link above, starting on July 1, 2012. This is a very real thing, and not something to be taken lightly. Customers' rights are being infringed upon, and adding a clause to the ISP user agreement does not justify this type of web-policing.
But please, don't take whatever I have said as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is simply a compilation of a few key points from many articles that go into this much more in-depth, and, if you are even still reading this, then it might be a good idea to skim a few of these to broaden your knowledge of this subject, which is becoming more and more prominent every day. Know your rights, be smart, be safe, and enjoy your freedoms while you still have them.
A Few Sources: