At the corner of big business and government there lies and waits a company called MarkMonitor, based in San Francisco. What does the company do? MarkMonitor offers enterprise security solutions, protecting trademarks and copyrighted material by monitoring the behavior and activities of users online as an extension of the Center for Copyright Information.

What does this mean? If you use a service that transfers files using bittorrent as a file transfer protocol (FTP) your internet service provider (ISP) may be working with MarkMonitor to track the types of files you’re accessing and sharing. Penalties for alleged infringement of a company’s copyright include a written warning, throttling a users access speed, redirecting their browser to information about copyright infringement and in the end the user can be denied, though the plan does not require denial of service, access by the ISP and charged with as much as $150,000 in penalties per offense. For more on the Copyright Alert System, check out this FAQ at Wired. According to Wired, these practices will be implemented by providers like AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and others.

So who is MarkMonitor? MarkMonitor is a company, ran under the direction of Irfan Salim, that outsources its services to copyright and trademark holders so that they may then request internet service providers to pursue alleged infringement.

To put this into a non-web context, suppose a grocery store is worried that it is losing produce because of theft and an individual was accused of stealing groceries and bringing them into their home. In an effort to prevent the theft of groceries, a company (in this case MarkMonitor) reviews every item that individual brings into their home to see if it’s stolen. If the individual is found to have stolen groceries, the company then notifies the grocery store that it found stolen groceries in that individual’s possession. No warrant, no probable cause required; just one company rifling through an individual’s property and informing another company if it finds something they suspect is stolen.