Your ISP is now the copyright police

Let’s get this out the way; stealing is bad b’okay. Sure Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li was deplorable by any measure and shouldn’t even make it to my monthly Bad Movie Fridays (it’s my way of unwinding on the cheap), but that does not mean you should be torrenting the movie. That said, it is not the job of any ISP to police copyright infringement by their subscribers – that job should solely fall on the owners of said copyrighted material.

Just last week news that the 3 major ISP’s agreed to sign on to the music and movie industries’ “copyright alert” system marking the first time that ISP’s have agreed to become the copyright police. Most notable in this agreement is the “six strikes” rule, where if a copyright holder alleges you have used your connection to steal content, they notify your ISP and in turn, you ISP will send a warning. After six warnings, the ISP may take steps to throttle or temporarily suspend your account (yeah, you didn’t think they’d just give up your money did you?), but no where in any of this appears any means for the alleged subscriber to defend or clear their name.

Guilty, no proving innocence

There in lies the greatest problem with this agreement: It goes counter to one of the very guiding principles in our (US) legal system – you’re no longer innocent until proven guilty. All the copyright holder has to do is send a memo to your ISP who will then shoot off warnings without any further investigation into the complaint. It is assuming guilt without any proof beyond the word of one plaintiff.

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know has torrented everything from software to music to movies to .txt files. Some times in a totally legal capacity other times not so much. But most likely, if you were torrenting for nefarious reasons, you were probably masking your IP address. Torrenting 101 as far as I’m concerned. Whether that means the user is actually hiding their IP address or stealing someone else’s internet connection, enforcement of the six strikes agreement will do nothing to curb illegal content distribution and at best will further piss off those of us who will actually purchase content and/or subscribe to digital media services. At worse it will penalize the overwhelming majority of folks that don’t know an IP address from email address and will ultimately leave them open for potentially damaging lawsuits.

Back in 1998 when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed, ISPs lobbied successfully to include a “safe harbor” provision to the flawed piece of legislation. By exempting themselves from being the music and movies industry’s whipping horse, they rightfully put the onus and expense of finding and enforcing copyright infringement on the holders of those copyrights. This agreement is a step backwards and toe-ing the line on some very dangerous precedence. Just remember, big brother watching you isn’t cliché – it’s becoming acceptable.

Source: Ars Technica

3 thoughts on “Your ISP is now the copyright police”

  1. What i don’t understand is why would the customer continue paying for their service if they’re being throttled or limited in other ways?

    If my ISP did that to me i’d just say “Good bye, i’m not giving you my money any more.” and switch to another ISP.
    Of course, there’s not much choice in certain areas, but still.

    1. Yeah, that’s the biggest problem. If I were pissed off enough and said goodbye to Cablevision I’d be screwed because there isn’t any competition in my area. It’s Cablevision or it’s DSL through Verizon – these are my only “options”.

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