Beaver County Times, Pa., Michael Pound column [Beaver County Times, Pa.]
(Beaver County Times (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 03--Having failed in nearly every other attempt to keep people from making illegal copies of songs, movies and television shows, the entertainment industry has started a kinder, gentler course.
Your Internet connection could be slowed or shut off until you complete an educational program -- but they're at least going to be nice about it.
The nation's largest Internet service providers -- you also know them as cable companies, including Comcast -- have kicked off what they're calling an educational campaign to inform users like us about what copyrights are, how they can get us in trouble if we're downloading illegal stuff and, helpfully, where we can find media on the Internet that won't get us in trouble.
On its face, it's an interesting approach; but the nuts and bolts of the effort, called the Copyright Alert System, are a little creepy. And perhaps open to a great deal of interpretation.
Industry members like the Recording Industry Association of American and the Motion Picture Association of American have formed a happy fun sort-of-lobbying group called the Center for Copyright Information; at that group's site (copyrightinformation.org), you'll get a walk through the new program. For a first offense, your ISP will send you a notice that someone might have been using your account to illegally download stuff you shouldn't; with subsequent offenses, you'll get more stern cautions, which could include redirection to a landing page where you'll be forced to acknowledge that you've read through some prepared materials about copyright infringement.
If you ignore all that stuff through several instances -- the whole shebang is called the "six strikes" rule -- and gleefully continue to download media, your ISP could clock your account -- meaning it would dramatically slow you upload and download speeds -- or maybe even shut down your account entirely.
The CCI site doesn't say that, specifically, and CCI officials have said last week the "mitigation measures" -- the public relations jargon the group uses when it means to say "when we drop the hammer" -- are up to the ISPs; that's an interesting thing, because the ISPs pretty clearly don't want to be held complicit in piracy cases and because some of them -- NBC owner Comcast, for example -- are content producers.
And let's be clear -- legal action is an option. Here's a little noteworthy thing, copied directly from the group's FAQ section:
"At no time will ISPs share personal information (name, address, etc.) with anyone else (including the Content Owners or other ISPs) except pursuant to a properly issued subpoena or court order."
Ouch. With that tidbit nestled in the middle of the rest of the happy funtime language on the site, it's pretty clear that the group is serious about this stuff.
Now that we really understand where the CCI is coming from, let's look at how they're going to catch you. It's simple: content producers are joining peer-to-peer media sharing sites, and they're going to watch you while you're there. When they see activity involving stuff they think is property copyrighted, they're going to log the IP address -- the unique address we're all given by our ISPs -- and they'll then contact the ISP that owns the address.
From there, the ISP notifies the account holder of the apparently illegal activity. Boom -- Strike One.
My concerns Even though CCI promises that each claim will be investigated independently, instances of infringement are determined by ... well, we're not really sure. Is Mick Jagger sitting on his couch eating Cheetos and surfing P2P sites Or will it be Mick's team of lawyers And will those lawyers -- or, you know, Mick -- understand what fair use is
Do the ISPs have a say Or are they simply going to be concerned with keeping their own butts out of the courtroom
Is someone -- going to spot me downloading a Phish show from bt.etree.org -- a site that lists BitTorrents only from bands that permit it to do so -- and turn me in because the act of downloading a 2-gig show from a file-sharing site couldn't possibly be legal
And the biggest question of all: Would the big content providers -- the ones behind CCI and the Copyright Alert System -- actually be better served to work with consumers to distribute content the ways we want to receive it rather than trying to cling to distribution models that haven't worked for decades
I'm not saying copyright infringement isn't an issue. But the cheerful, breezy tone of CCI and its backers belies one plain fact -- they are still looking to serve as judge, jury and executioner when it comes to protecting their content.
(c)2013 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.)
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