ISPs To Punish File Sharing By Blocking Customer Browsing

2011/07/13

An article in the New York Times from July 7 caught my eye.

Hollywood, the music industry and major American internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed to impose penalties on people who pirate or share music or movies. This includes other digital content, such as sound effects libraries.

File sharing and piracy always leads to heated discussions. Whatever your attitude toward file sharing, this agreement is significant because it means that there will be a fundamental change in the way we receive movies, music or sound effects.

How would it work?

The process would work like this:

  1. Hollywood or the music industry identifies someone sharing music or movies illegally. Typically these people are identified in file sharing clients by their IP address. Generally speaking, everyone sharing a file can see each others’ IP address
  2. The MPAA or RIAA then contact the person’s ISP and notify them someone is file sharing
  3. The ISP then sends a warning to the person at that IP address. Six warnings will continue for repeat file sharers. The penalties range from an email warning to bandwidth throttling or reduced connection speeds, to blocking web browsing

Will punishing file sharing work?

It’s unlikely that this will deter the savvy file sharing community, who likely know how to avoid having their IP address detected, and therefore being identified sharing files.

For the casual fire sharer it may be enough to turn them to digital stores like Amazon or iTunes.

It’s in fact already happening up here in Canada. In Toronto a few people I know have been sent cease and desist letters from Rogers, a local ISP, saying that “someone at their IP address” was sharing copyrighted material illegally.

One issue that has been raised is that it is hard to prove exactly who is sharing the file. An IP address alone can target a household, or a router, but does not identify the exact person. Thus the vague wording in the letter from Rogers.

Another issue is that none of this is reviewed by the legal system before the letters are sent and the penalties are imposed. Customers are allowed to dispute the ISPs’ accusations, however.

Why are the ISPs and Hollywood working together?

Why would ISPs do this? The article indicates that ISPs want a slice of the digital content distribution business.

In other words ISPs plan to send customers digital music or movies from Hollywood or music companies and take a cut out for doing this. If people are sharing the same files for free it will cut into the ISPs’ profits.

How does this agreement affect artists?

What does this mean for artists who make movies, music or sound effects?

It means that fewer unauthorized copies of their creations will be floating around.

It also means there is a higher chance that people who want these creations will purchase them. It means those artists will be paid for their ingenuity and work.

This is good news, because it means artists will have an incentive to keep creating great movies, music and sound effects libraries. Not many artists can survive very long without being paid for creating. I don’t know about you but I want people who are creating great material to keep doing so.

Also, a proposed law streaming

There’s also another law in America which is currently in the news, named S.978. This law, if passed, would make it illegal for anyone to broadcast copyrighted material via the internet, also known as streaming.

This law is squarely aimed at sites such as justin.tv and ustream.tv (and to a lesser extent youtube.com). These sites, which do legitimate business, also have users that stream copyrighted TV shows and movies. On any given day you can see people rebroadcasting HBO and Showtime episodes in realtime as they are being aired on the pay-per-view channels.

The problem is that watching these episodes on justin.tv would cut HBO out of subscription revenue.

S.978 would clarify language that would make this specifically illegal. Someone that streams copyrighted material ten times in 180 days could face five years in prison. Yikes.

And there you have the recent news in copyright and digital content.

Links

Here’s a link to the well-written article about ISPs and Hollywood.

This link will let you see how the S.978 bill is passing through congress.


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