January 14, 2013

The six-strike anti-piracy policy is nearly here


Over the next few weeks, the six-strike anti-piracy system that Hollywood, the recording industry and your internet service provider came up with, will begin to take effect.

Even if you’re comfortable with the concept of private lobby groups and corporations — which together form the The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) — enforcing copyright with their own idea of due process, the new policy may be problematic on a practical level.

John Paul Titlow at ReadWriteWeb details the impact of Verizon’s six-strike policy.

Verizon’s system, according to Titlow, will work as follows:

“Verizon’s alert system will start with an email and automated voicemail. After continued infringement, it will redirect your browser to a Web page containing another alert and an educational video about piracy. If that doesn’t stop you from downloading Game of Thrones episodes and Skrillex albums, you’ll get another warning and Verizon will temporarily slow down your Internet connection. If you do it again, it will actually leave you alone. The goal is apparently to spook enough people to put some kind of a noticeable dent in overall copyright infringement. With all the major ISPs on board, they’ll probably succeed in doing so.”

What is more problematic is what Titlow calls “collective punishment”. For example, many cafes supply free wi-fi to their customers, but now, if anyone comes in and downloads pirated content, Verizon will slow the cafe’s wireless speed, regardless of who is at fault. This policy will apply to all business wi-fi accounts.

Besides this slowing of internet service, the warnings will be, for the most part, educational, as the CCI will not be able to terminate users’ connection absolutely. However, some of their measures may have a similar effect. As their own website explains,

“Once a consumer has failed to respond, mitigation measures might 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 educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter.”

Doesn’t incessant redirection to a landing page in someways resemble termination of service?

Not to mention, having internet service providers tracking their customers to this considerable extent seems a little like a free evidence collecting service for future law suits. As TorrentFreak writes,

“the MPAA and RIAA may obtain the IP-addresses of such repeat infringers in order to take legal action against them. While the ISPs will not voluntarily share the name and address linked to the IP-address, they can obtain a subpoena to demand this information from the provider. The potential for copyright holders to use the alert system as solid evidence gathering for lawsuits remains one of the most problematic aspects of the six-strikes scheme.”

The six-strike anti-piracy tactic the CCI has come up with appears mostly toothless, but in the long-term may represent a sinister first step towards the identification and criminalisation of a generation of internet users.

Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.