Can You Really Get Kicked Off the Internet?
After several years of negotiations and rumors, the music and film lobbyists have finally reached an agreement with Internet service providers to crack down on copyright violators. Effective March 1st 2013, the so-called 'six strikes program' went into effect. What is it, and what does it mean to you?
Six Strikes and You're Out of the Internet?
Let's step back for just a second and lay some ground work. Who are these "music and film lobbyists" and why are they so upset about "copyright violators"? Very simply, it's all about the illegal downloading of music and movies. If you download a popular song or movie without paying for it, you're breaking the law.
And because that activity deprives the studios and artists who created that entertainment the fruits of their labor, the music and film industries have created lobbying groups such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to fight back against internet piracy and copyright violations. In legal terms, these groups are called the rights holders.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires ISPs to take action against suspected copyright violators when they receive complaints from rights holders; otherwise, an ISP can be held liable for contributory infringement. The six-strikes program formalizes the action that will be taken against suspects. Here is how it will work:
Upon the first complaint, the ISP will send a notice to the customer informing him that allegedly infringing activity has been traced to his account, and suggesting ways to prevent future infringement. If the activity continues, further complaints will result in warnings of an increasingly intrusive nature. For example, your Web browser may be redirected to a warning page that won’t go away for a period of time, or you may be forced to acknowledge that you have violated copyright. After five strikes, things get serious.
Repeat offenders are subject to “mitigation measures” that may include throttling bandwidth down to dialup speeds for two or three days, or requiring you to call a mitigation specialist to discuss the matter before the throttling is lifted. Access to popular Web sites may be blocked until you take an online education course.
Six Strikes... and Then What?
But what happens after the sixth and, presumably, final strike? No one really knows, at this point. The agreement between rights holders and ISPs says that mitigation measures may include termination of Internet service. But the signatory ISPs have all announced that they don’t plan to terminate anyone. It certainly isn’t in their interests to cut off their own revenue streams. In all likelihood, ISPs will continue to do what they do now: respond to court orders for customer info and let the music industry sue the infringers if they wish.
If you wish to contest a strike, it will cost you a $35 arbitration fee. That fee will be refunded if the arbitration goes in your favor.
The goal of this program is to educate, not litigate, according to the rights holders. The escalating warnings and mitigation measures are designed to get infringers to come to class, pay attention, and do something to stop the copyright violations that allegedly occur through their accounts.
Some false rumors are flying about the six-strikes program; here is the truth about some of them:
- "It's the law!" -- The six-strikes rule is not a law; it doesn’t change any penalties in the DMCA. It’s just a private agreement between rights holders and ISPs. Of course, downloading copyrighted music and movies without paying is illegal. But that's different from the "six strikes" agreement.
- "We'll be watching you!" -- ISPs are not going to monitor all of your Internet activity. They will continue to simply respond to complaints from rights holders. The rights holders, in turn, are monitoring only peer-to-peer file sharing networks at this time. Furthermore, they concentrate on monitoring only their most recent, valuable intellectual properties, not years-old movies and music that hardly anyone buys anymore.
- "They'll turn you in!" -- ISPs will not be obliged to turn over customer records to rights holders under this agreement. A court order is still required.
- "You'll be blacklisted!" -- There is no permanent blacklist of infringing customers. After 12 months of no infringement complaints, a customer’s record is wiped clean.
Which ISPs are Involved?
Only five major ISPs are signatories to the six-strikes agreement; they are Comcast, Time-Warner, Verizon, Cablevision, and AT&T. But “six strikes” may apply to you even if you don’t subscribe to one of these ISPs. Most second-tier ISPs get their upstream connections from one or more of the majors. An infringement complaint will be passed from a major ISP to yours, and they will pass it on to you.
Your ISP may have a different, even more drastic policy; they don’t want to lose their business-critical upstream connection over one customer’s piracy. Cox Communications is known to terminate service after three strikes.
The six-strikes program is administered by the Center for Copyright Information, an arm of the RIAA and MPAA. You can learn more about the program there, but bear in mind the biased nature of the source.
The six-strikes program should not concern anyone who does the following:
Avoid peer-to-peer networks, file sharing, and other illegal sources for obtaining music or movies. You can listen to free music all day long on services such as Pandora, Slacker, and Spotify. (See Five Web Radio Services You'll Love.) If there's a song you must have right now, you can legally purchase it for a buck or so. Likewise there are many sources for free movies online. See my article How To Get Free Movies Online - Legally
You'll also need to take a few simple steps to secure your network against unauthorized users. See my article, Is Your Wireless Router REALLY Secure? and make sure no one can use your Internet connection to engage in activities for which you could be blamed.
Do you have something to say about this topic? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 4 Mar 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Can You Really Get Kicked Off the Internet? (Posted: 4 Mar 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved