New Initiative To Fight Internet Piracy In The Wild, Wild Web
The coalition is made of copyrights holders like the Motion Pictures Assn. of America, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and major Hollywood studios along with ISPs including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and etc. Overseeing this new initiative will be the Center for Copyright Information. Together the group intends to thwart illegal downloading by way of better educating the public of the consequences--and, if education fails, "mitigation measures."
The plan is a logical step forward for copyright enforcement; educate the public--especially the decision makers of the house--of the online violation and hope a direct confrontation discourages illegal activities. But, as simple and logical as it may seem, this new initiative bring to mind some questions: Are the intended actions reasonable regulations set to stop online piracy or an overstepping of authority by the ISPs to placate media moguls at the expense of the public?
The aim with the new initiative is to prevent copyright content theft, not to punish according to the coalition.
If you're not one to dabble with torrents and peer-to-peer downloading, there is nothing to worry about in the first place. But even for those whose moral compasses may have been skewed by temptation of free movies and music, multiple chances are afforded--after all, why would ISPs want to lose their source of revenue by enforcing permanent bands on users?
It basically boils down to a "six strikes" rule, meaning anyone who is flagged by the ISP for sharing copyrighted data will be given six notices informing them of violation. Within the first five or six warnings, user notification from the ISP will vary from simple pop-up notifications to landing pages that require users to acknowledge previous warnings.
If the alleged illegal activity continues after several warnings, the ISP reserve the right to take "mitigation measures" to discourage illegal downloading.
The mitigation measures, according to the Memorandum of Understanding released by the coalition, include the follow:
(a) temporary reduction in uploading and/or downloading transmission speeds;
(b) temporary step-down in the Subscriber’s service tier to (1) the lowest tier of Internet access service above dial-up service that the Participating ISP makes widely available to residential customers in the Subscriber’s community, or (2) an alternative bandwidth throughput rate low enough to significantly impact a Subscriber’s broadband Internet access service (e.g., 256 - 640 kbps);
(c) temporary redirection to a Landing Page until the Subscriber contacts the Participating ISP to discuss with it the Copyright Alerts;
(d) temporary restriction of the Subscriber’s Internet access for some reasonable period of time as determined in the Participating ISP’s discretion;
(e) temporary redirection to a Landing Page for completion of a meaningful educational instruction on copyright
For those who feel they've been wrongly accused/punished for copyright infringement, the coalition provides an official appeal process initially at the expense of the users, of course. Keep in mind, however, filing for an appeal is only allowed after receiving a "mitigation measure" and not a warning.
Through the appeal process the users are allowed to use six defenses to prove their innocence:
(i) Misidentification of Account - that the ISP account has been incorrectly identified as one through which acts of alleged copyright infringement have occurred.
(ii) Unauthorized Use of Account - that the alleged activity was the result of the unauthorized use of the Subscriber’s account of which the Subscriber was unaware and that the Subscriber could not reasonably have prevented.
(iii) Authorization - that the use of the work made by the Subscriber was authorized by its Copyright Owner.
(iv) Fair Use - that the Subscriber’s reproducing the copyrighted work(s) and distributing it/them over a P2P network is defensible as a fair use.
(vi) Misidentification of File - that the file in question does not consist primarily of the alleged copyrighted work at issue.
(vii) Work Published Before 1923 - that the alleged copyrighted work was published prior to 1923.
If the appeal is decided in the user's favor, the initial filing fee of $35 will be returned and the last warning taken off the user's history. However, in order to start from a clean slate altogether, users will have to be free from warnings within a twelve-month period.
Though this process may seem reasonable compared to actions taken by other nations who enforce a suspension from the Internet, the coalition's "six strikes" rule still sets some dangerous precedences.
Namely, the coalition's intended actions rely heavily on the allegation of the copyrights holder and--though subtle--doles out punishment without a legal ruling. For those wrongfully accused, this may prove to be very harmful.
Without a due process in a legal court, the ISPs will essentially have the authority to punish people for alleged illegal activity based on allegation from copyrights holders. Since when is that a good idea?
So, is this the end of the wild wild web or the beginning of authoritarian rule online?
Reach Jacob Chung here.