MPAA shuts down entire town's muni WiFi over a single download

The MPAA has successfully shut down an entire town's municipal WiFi because a single user was found to be downloading a copyrighted movie. Rather than being embarrassed by this gross example of collective punishment (a practice outlawed in the Geneva conventions) against Coshocton, OH, the MPAA's spokeslizard took the opportunity to cry poor (even though the studios are bringing in record box-office and aftermarket receipts).
Mike LaVigne, IT director, said the number of people who access the Internet using the connection varies widely, from perhaps a dozen people a day to 100 during busy times such as First Fridays and the Coshocton Canal Festival.

It's used by Coshocton County Sheriff's deputies who can park in the 300 block and complete a traffic or incident report without leaving their vehicle. Out-of-town business people can park and use their laptops to make connections.

During festival times, vendors find it a convenience to check the status of credit cards being used to make purchases, LaVigne said.

Because it's a single address used by many people, it's difficult to tell who made the illegal download, although the county plans to investigate the matter .

Illegal movie download forces shutdown of free Wi-Fi (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but how the hell is this possible? Who let’s the MPAA wield such power? When will somebody put a stop to the MPAA, the RIAA, and other lobbyist-driven Satan sucklers?

  2. What business vendor uses what most people would define as unsecure wi-fi to check status of credit card information?

    1. you can make a secure connection through unsecure wifi. All ‘secure’ wifi means is that no one can listen between you and the computer connected to the rest of the internet. That means if you’re not making a secure connection anyway, THE REST OF THE INTERNET can potentially listen to what you’re saying. Anyone using a credit card transaction needs to make a secure, encrypted, connection between their computer and the recipient computer, then it doesn’t matter if they’re using wifi or whatever.

    2. Anyone who trusts SSL/TLS? Yes, they would be able to see all the traffic, but unless they can break the encryption, it doesn’t do them much good.

    3. really? You think that WEP is the issue on running a CC? SSL is the issue… if the sites encrypted properly then WEP/WPA/WPA2 doesn’t matter.

    4. You can transfer private data securely on an open Wi-Fi, so long as you run an encrypted VPN connection.

    5. “What business vendor uses what most people would define as unsecure wi-fi to check status of credit card information?”

      And what’s the Internet at large? Secure?

      If a site is properly encrypted then it doesn’t matter if the wifi connection is in the clear. That’s the WHOLE POINT OF SSL.

  3. This is a joke.. The MPAA should be charged the average amount of users \ day for every single day this network is down.. Absolutely ridiculous.. If they refuse to pay take them to court for knowingly filing false copyright complaints and effecting so many peoples..

    On the other hand who in their right mind would nuke the entire network even if it is 1 IP.. The city should of told the MPAA to take a hike..

    I suspect Ohio may be the next state where the MPAA\RIAA can’t send their loony companies to investigate people..

  4. Looks like the administrator was spooked by the goons into turning the service off. There’s no mention of any actual proceedings in the story. If that’s the same admin as thinks that a product exists which will stop illegal stuff, he (and the community) might benefit from a friendly education.

    “Bad apples” is horribly victimized.

  5. From the article it looks like a single wi-fi connection was set up by the town as a public service. So local festival vendors could check credit card numbers, visitors could connect with their laptops, etc.

    Someone used it in a way that MPAA’s ham fisted lawsuit happy lawyers didn’t like. So the service provider shut it down.

    The MPAA’s position seems to be that all internet use should be logged, monitored and traceable back to the specific individual.

    That basically means no more free wi-fi or wi-fi sharing.

    Thanks movie guys!

  6. To anyone from Coshocton who might be reading this: folks, you really do need to learn to be better netizens to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future! For example, look into the TOR Project. Thanks and have a nice day!

  7. I can personally guarantee you that a grand total of 2 people in all of Coshocton County have ever heard of Tor.
    As for process, I can guarantee you that the county commissioner took one look at that letter and said “shut it down” out of sheer panic at the threat of being involved in legal proceedings. WiFi up there is nice, but by no means essential.
    And, if this is the same Mike LaVigne that I used to work with in Canton, I know he didn’t fight it.

  8. This sucks, Cory, and it sucks that the blame is being put on this ‘one person’ when it’s the draconian MPAA regs that are to blame.

    But really, the Geneva Conventions? And calling one WiFi point an ‘entire town’s municipal WiFi?’ You’re exaggerating to an enormous degree, and you don’t even need to. This bullshit would be recognizable as bullshit without the hyperbole.

  9. Sure, MPAA evil, but they’re not doing anything unexpected here. What disappoints me is that the muni network administrators seem to be convinced that it is THEIR job to be copyright infringement police. If I lived in that town, I’d be pissed because I wouldn’t want my property/sales/whatever taxes going to fund that when it could be subsidizing much more constructive things, like oh, say- free internet access.

  10. @ Boondocker.

    Tell me how this is not an example of “collective punishment” and maybe you have a point.

    As far as I can tell, it *IS* Collective Punishment, and Collective Punishment is indeed banned by the Geneva Conventions.

    Granted most of the time it refers to things like the IDF bulldozing an entire city block because one member of one family living on that block has ties to Hamas, etc. That too is Collective Punishment, closer to the original intent of its prohibition by the Geneva Conventions, but as this WiFi story is a different (albeit less extreme) example of the same idea, I think Cory is being simply factual, not hyperbolic.

    1. As far as I can tell, it *IS* Collective Punishment, and Collective Punishment is indeed banned by the Geneva Conventions. …this WiFi story is a different (albeit less extreme) example of the same idea, I think Cory is being simply factual, not hyperbolic.

      Of course it’s collective punishment. You, and Cory, are right. Talking about the Geneva conventions, which as jerwin stated, apply to armed conflict, suggests that an ISP denying a group of people WiFi is somehow equatable to acts of war. They don’t equate.

      They also don’t need to. The MPAA and ISP’s actions are, in my opinion, heavy-handed and ludicrous. The situation can stand on its own, without reference to the Geneva Conventions.

      I know it’s a blog, and Cory can get worked up over things that he cares deeply about. He’s exaggerating, though, by saying a whole town’s WiFi was cut off, and he’s coming close to Godwining his own post by invoking the Geneva Conventions.

  11. The Geneva convention would be an interesting angle to attack this though as well as the proposed 3 stikes rule some countries are trying to shoe horn into law.

  12. The Geneva Conventions apply to armed conflicts– war. Outside of that context, countries are not bound by it.

  13. Sounds like someone wasn’t thinking straight when they set this network up. They should have known that people would do dodgy things on it. That’s guaranteed to happen. It’s just a question of when, and how you plan to deal with it.

  14. You would probably have to prove that the MPAA were occupying or involved in armed conflict with Coshocton before Collective Punishment protection would apply.

  15. I agree with everyone so far on the Geneva Convention angle, but with my limited knowledge of how it applies in general, here is a question to someone how might know more:

    Are corporations or groups of corporations (groups like the mpaa) forced to follow Geneva Conventions?

    Sure governments have signed the Geneva Conventions, but I don’t know how those laws apply to corporations operating within Countries that have signed the Geneva Conventions.

    1. As others have already indicated, the Geneva Conventions apply to conduct during war and not this case. However, to answer your question: corporations are not obligated to follow the Geneva Conventions unless formally under the control of a government, i.e. they would apply to China’s state-run media but not ‘independent’ media outlets such as Al Jazeera; obviously the extent to which a media outlet is independent of a state is subject to debate. Corporations such as Blackwater which the U.S. contracts to operate in Iraq may or may not be outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, depending on how we define them: mercenaries are not allowed, but armed private security contractors are. The question is the extent to which private contractors are used in Iraq as soldiers and not security guards; too much of the former and you’ve got a violation of international law.

      If the city of Coshocton seceded from the U.S. and our government contracted the MPAA to aid in defeating these treacherous rebels, and the MPAA had the power to take out Internet for the whole municipality (and not just pressure someone else to do it) because one rebel decided to illegally download a copy of /Braveheart/ (1995) to aid in morale efforts, then maybe you’d have a case of Collective Punishment as defined by the Geneva Conventions. Maybe.

  16. Somebody in Ypsilanti, Michigan just illegally downloaded the movie “Half Baked” last night. The MPAA has now requested that the entire internet be shut down. This may be one of the last posts any of us will ever make!!!

  17. actually the wifi doesn’t cover the “entire (11k population) town”, it covers ONE BLOCK:

    “the county made a free wireless Internet connection available in the block surrounding the Coshocton County Courthouse at 318 Main St.”

  18. a gross example of collective punishment would probably involve more than closing a wifi network. or perhaps my knowledge of world history is a bit rusty.

  19. Why not just cut the power? No illegal downloading then, and it completely shuts down their homes, possibly letting them freeze to death if they don’t have gas. Better yet, raze the entire town.

  20. what crap. might as well say, “a crime was committed in this town. whether the suspect was passing through or has lived here for years is irrelevant; the crime was committed here and you all live here, so you’re all under arrest.”

    was there any legal preceding at any level? or did a private interest group really just basically tell a local government what to do?

  21. The article does NOT say the MPAA shut the network down. It says that the city made the decision, after being notified about the alleged activity (which could be a civil copyright violation, not a crime), to shut the network down rather than install filtering and monitoring software.

    The city could have stood its ground, asserted common-carrier privilege, and responded to a subpoena (if one was proffered) for connection data (if they maintain it). But it decided to shut down instead.

  22. The municipality of Coshocton, OH should respond by shutting down all the local movie theaters and video stores carrying MPAA movies.

  23. This probably won’t be the last time I mention this but this is not about the MP industries profits, rather it is about control and precedent setting.

  24. The MPAA and the RIAA both need to stop their gestapo tactics, and if we the people don’t do something about it, it just won’t get done. The gov’t. is bending over for them, taking their payola most likely, and spouting drivel in their support of them. Rise up! Stamp them down! download only free content, or purchase online!

  25. I don’t think they’re going far enough. I think if someone brings a camcorder, or even a cellphone with video, into a movie theater, then we should shut that theater down! And if someone records a tv show we should shut that network down! No entertainment for anybody, anytime, anywhere – that’s how to protect entertainment industry profits!

  26. Let me add to my previous post.
    If someone counterfeits a concert ticket, then the concert tour should be cancelled. If someone copies a dvd, then the dvd must immediately be banned from retail sale and rental to prevent other people from copying it. If someone buys an mp3 from iTunes Music Store and then file-shares it, then the iTunes Music Store must be shut down to prevent others from doing the same thing. If a screener copy of a movie leaks then the movie studio must be shut down. If someone uses a municipal wifi hotspot to illegally download a movie, then everyone else must be banned from using that hotspot to visit imdb, mrmovietimes, netflix, hulu, tvguide, amazon, iTunes music store, Zune store, etc.
    (psst I’m being sarcastic!)

  27. It’s getting beyond a joke now..
    I’ve heard of people in my area (Near London, I won’t be exact..) being cut-off by thier ISP without contact.. for things they KNOW they haven’t done.
    Geezsus, my grandfather recieved a letter from his ISP in regards to movie downloads via .torrent.
    He wouldn’t know where to start with .torrent downloads!! O_O

  28. What I find interesting is that a municipal net got shut down. If the MPAA was really playing rough, Cox, Comcast, Verizon, at&t et all would have to shut down their networks too.

  29. This is just like the time when they dismantled the Red Car because an L.A. resident hopped on after stealing a magazine from a local newsstand.

  30. I used to be the tech director for a school district that heavily uses distance learning programs for many of it’s subjects to the point that many students do nothing but sit in front of a computer. Shortly after I left, one of the computers on the largest campus got broken into and was allegedly used to to serve out the new batman movie. They called me in to have a look at the machine and we never could locate the movie on the machine, but rather than the MPAA contacting someone and asking us to take care of it, or even having the service provider firewall just that one computer, they had the service provider disconnect the entire 50Mb connection severing all 25+ schools from the Internet and the kids from their classes.
    I don’t know why people are letting this happen without a court order, and if I was still there I would have used the situation to claim breach of contract on the service providers part and switched the connection over to a new provider.

  31. So I kinda want to inject that if the Geneva Conventions, require armed conflict. Not that I advocate violence but does anyone have a tazer big enough to taze the MPAA? With that requirement met we would all be better off.

  32. And how do we know it wasn’t someone from the MPAA visiting Coshocton, OH who downloaded a movie just so they could flex their imaginary muscles.

  33. This MPAA situation is a true joke.. They are being let run wild. This could be solved simply by making a law which states that if someone is convicted of receiving a copy right product that the person would have to pay the current average retail price which was derived by surviving 100 retail stores and averaging the current price. Why are we letting the MPAA get away with robbery and political murder?
    In this case an entire small town which was trying to do the right thing is being crushed by these sadist punks.

    Let do something about this. Lets do the right thing and put an end to the insanity.
    Power of the People!

  34. ….that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness (and free public wi-fi).

  35. wingedearth – Coshocton is where I grew up. There’s only one movie theater with 1 or 2 screens.
    Maybe 1 or 2 movie rental places.

    It’s a small, small town.. I’d think the MPAA had better things to do. It could have been anyone, but who would have the patience to download a whole movie over wifi. I suspect it was a guest in a hotel.

  36. Why hasn’t anyone started a nation wide boycott yet?
    Why not collectively and intentionally stop going to movies?

  37. I can tell you this right now (and I encourage others to do this)… If my internet is ever shut down, I am going to make hundreds of thousands of DVD-ROMS filled with all the copyrighted material I can get my hands on, and simply drop them into people’s mailboxes all around my city.

    If those people then load *any* of the data, or neglect to dispose of the DVD, then they too are breaking the law. I’d like to see them try to put 2 million people in jail.

    They may then understand that breaking an electronic connection will not stop piracy. In fact it creates backlash. When Metallica sued Napster, a friend of mine then went and illegally downloaded Metallica’s entire discography to file-share online… even though he hates their music and had periously downloaded none of it.


  38. let them try……..we shall not be forced to pay too much for software/music/media (or pay at all for that matter) the harder they push, the harder we push back. Torrents already scare them, just wait to see what we have next.

  39. A deeper issue here is about ownership of our mythological commons by commercial concerns. See “Microslaw”, a satire I wrote about if all law was treated like copyrighted music or movies:
    And here is a book on the value of the public domain:
    “Our music, our culture, our science and our economic welfare all depend on a delicate balance between those ideas that are controlled and those that are free, between intellectual property and the public domain. In his award-winning new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press) James Boyle introduces readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being tragically eroded by our current copyright, patent, and trademark laws. In a series of fascinating case studies, Boyle explains why gene sequences, basic business ideas and pairs of musical notes are now owned, why jazz might be illegal if it were invented today, why most of 20th century culture is legally unavailable to us, and why today’s policies would probably have smothered the World Wide Web at its inception.”

  40. The death throes of the MPAA. We’ll be telling stories about this to our bored children in ten or fifteen years.

  41. The EFF needs to track down the judge that signed off on this and get them pulled up before a committee. I don’t care which committee, just so long as it’s a powerful one. This is a flagrant breach of civil liberties.

    I notice that the EU has just tabled a bill defining internet access as a human right, and it’s a killer that the US (which is more dependant on the internet than Europe is) has no such protection. When the Europeans pull this far ahead of America in terms of civil rights it’s time to take a good hard look at the country and to start to hand power back to the people.

    The feds and big business have gotten way too powerful.

  42. This is precisely why I haven’t seen a movie in a theater in over a decade.

    While there hasn’t been a massive organized boycott of moviegoing (to MPAA member films) yet that I’ve seen, people are giving up on tired remakes, spinoffs, sequels and other Hollywood drivel and walking out of theaters one customer at a time. Draconian enforcement is just another nail in the MPAA coffin.

  43. Watch “Steal This Movie.” The MPAA can even reach across international borders and try to shut things down. It’s fucking ridiculous

  44. I hope they turned off the power to the entire town too since the perp must have, at some point, used electricity to commit said crime.

  45. They should close all the roads in the town because there is a good chance that criminals use them to transport drugs there.

    One day the MPAA will not be able to afford to buy the governing bodies.

  46. The beauty of this latest campaign, has the MPAA making up the charge, without having to point to any MPAA plant signing on and downloading anything. Interesting, they are not attacking San Francisco mesh.

  47. As usual, we are becoming a city-state and punishing the few due to the actions of one, and people are supposed to call this accountability? Thats the biggest falsehood iv heard in a long time.. And as others have posted the ISP/City has “Safe Harbor” for providing this service, and the MPAA should be trying to find the one person who did it if they *really* have to, Just goes to show how much control over people the MPAA wants… and were all lemmings taking it like good complacient suckers.

  48. To the MPAA: You can have your product, I don’t it. Your music is Autotuned, your faces are Photoshopped, and your lyrics are focus-grouped.

    It’s all fake. I would neither buy it, nor pirate it. Keep it for yourself.

  49. We should boycott all movies by studios that are members of MPAA. They are: Sony, Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Universal.

    Boycott for Freedom

  50. Why do we as Americans put up with this type of abuse of copyright law, an authors or publishing company can’t close a cities public library because someone stole a book from the library. If someone shoplifted a DVD from Walmart would we allow the Police to stop all traffic throughout the city until the shoplifter was caught? If this industry needs to employ these type of Gestapo like tactics to remain profitable then our society would be better off without movies or music. As a copyright holder they do have the right to control their property, but as a consumer I have the right refuse to consume. Movie studios are not entitled to my or anyone’s bank account, as consumers we can always boycott their products until the entertainment companies treat us better.

  51. it’s no different than health insurance.
    pay the man the money, and the man will vote for your cause.
    fuck the poor, fuck justice, fuck you!
    pretty standard stuff in this world, where you been?

  52. This looks like the cable or phone companies doing. One connection used by hundreds is not profitable. Therefore you send somebody to do something illegal and report it to the MPAA so the wifi gets closed. The next day you have several people getting high speed Internet at their home. Make 100 customers out of 1. Not bad for a days work.

  53. The only way to beat these guys is to bankrupt them.
    simply dont go to the movies.
    dont buy music
    dont buy movies
    dont rent movies.


  54. We are not equal.
    Some *few* of us sometimes spend in one hour, the money *most* other of us spend in a year.
    So how do you expect “justice”?

    I also agree: Just DON’T buy their expensive CDs and DVDs, DON’T go to the cinema to watch their sick movies.
    Let’s have some *real* fun, let’s meet and date other people, let’s go to a live concert! Let’s go to the theater (instead of cinema)! Let’s learn to play music!
    Or let’s download (legitimate) free music.
    The current trend is that more and more music bands give their music for free online and they gain profit exclusively from live concerts!

  55. They don’t know who did it… Maybe it was an authorized studio member? No, wait, maybe it was the RIAA or the MPA just to see if they could.

  56. It comes down to are unsecure open networks legal and are the owners legally responsible for anything done on it?

    I say they should be legal and the owners should not be responsible for anything done on it, if the intent is not to set up a network for criminal acitivity.

    The above commentor focused in on “should have known someone would do something dodgy with it”. Irrelevant. There is a little bit of a “1984” thing going on here. The muncipals big mistake was making a network access available that had a user that couldn’t be tracked. That was the “crime”. Because the user of the network couldn’t be tracked down they became responsible according to RIAA.

    But what if they were protected as a common carrier (even if they arn’t)? It is a city, with open access providing content without filtering, it sounds like common carrier to me. The reason we are having trouble with this versus an ISP (common carrier) charging for a service, isn’t the lack of a charge. It is the lack of identity tracking.

    It is disconcerning at some level that the big hang up here is that someone was anonymous. Someone committed a crime and got away with it via that anonymity, but the purpose of the anonymity wasn’t to commit crimes. It was just there to be convenient for would be users.

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