July 11, 2012

Soon the internet will read you


I hope you haven’t been doing anything naughty with your internet connection, because very soon, if all goes to plan, your internet service provider (ISP) may pre-emptively monitor your account, registering all online activity.

Further, they’ll be able to cut you off if you or anyone using your internet connection has been downloading illegally.

The MPAA, RIAA and all the main American ISPs such as Verizon Communications Inc, Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp and AT&T Inc will be partnering under an umbrella organization called the the Center for Copyright Information (CCI).  The full “Memorandum of Understanding” can be found here.

Public Intelligence writes that these ISPs will warn customers six times, before more severe consequences — such as connection severance — will occur.

Although the ISPS deny they will cut you off, their mitigation measures include “temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information,” which will in effect be like having your connection suspended.

In other words, per Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing,

“[this is] an unholy alliance between the major entertainment companies the the nation’s largest ISPs, which gives your ISP carte blanche to spy on all your private Internet traffic on the off chance that you might be interfering with Universal Music’s profit-maximization scheme.”

This will heavily impact small business. As Deb McAlister writes,

The other thing that isn’t clear yet is exactly how a small business — one without dedicated IT staff and network sniffers and monitors — are supposed to figure out exactly WHO downloaded something illegally over a shared ISP connection. Even if they accept that the IP address wasn’t hijacked or hacked (not at all assured in a small business environment unless they use a really good firewall or security package like Zone Alarm instead of the common freeware tools), when the notice arrives all they know is that someone is alleged to have done something wrong using a device connected to their IP address.

In the case of a small business with a single, shared IP address – common in small service businesses – they don’t know who actually did it. And they certainly don’t know if the person who did it actually violated someone’s copyright or not — just that the movie or record company claims that they did so.


Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.