In what’s being heralded as a win for film and music studios, the country’s top internet service providers — Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Verizon — have all signed on to a new initiative called the Copyright Alert System to combat internet piracy.

The new process will identify users suspected of digital copyright infringement, such as heavy downloaders, and then send out a series of six warnings, each promising “progressively harsher consequences if the initial cautions [are] ignored.”

Violators will receive email alerts from an ISP the first and second time suspicious activity is detected. The third and fourth alerts will likely require confirmation of receiving the prior notices. If subsequent warnings are required, the ISPs have pledged to take some sort of action — though no firm punishments have been decided. Throttling download speeds is one option, as is suspending someone’s service altogether, but Comcast in particular vowed not to do that.

Regardless, the new initiative is a bit groundbreaking for ISPs, which have historically refused to police customers’ traffic. Civil liberties groups have said it may infringe on users’ rights to freely use the internet, but the ISPs say they will not pass the names of any suspected offenders to outside sources.

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