BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the UK public broadcaster, has told an Australian government proceeding that people who use VPNs a lot should be assumed to be engaged in piracy, that ISPs should surveil their users, that websites should be censored by Chinese-style national firewalls, and that the families of people accused of watching TV the wrong way should be disconnected from the Internet.
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The Copyright Alert System -- a "voluntary" system of disconnection threats sent to alleged file-sharers, created by entertainment companies and the large US ISPs -- has just celebrated its first birthday, having spent $2 million in order to send out 625,000 threats to people it believed to be infringers. How's that working out for them?
No one knows. The Center for Copyright Information -- which made a lot of noise about its war on piracy when it was ramping up -- has been totally silent for the past twelve months, not issuing a single press release (nor have its participating entities said anything about it in that time).
I guess there are two possibilities: one is that this was an amazing success, but they're too modest to boast.
The other one is that, like every other variant on this, as practiced in New Zealand, the UK, and France, it is an expensive boondoggle that wasted millions, alienated hundreds of thousands, and did nothing to break the copyright logjam that has been sowing chaos on the Internet since the 1990s.
This program was the brainchild of US copyright czar Victoria Espinel and the entertainment bigs, and was a predictable disaster from the outset. No doubt there will be some grossly flawed study in the near future to demonstrate that they've finally managed to
invent perpetual motion square the circle make Pi equal 3.1 threaten Internet users into doing their bidding.
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Evaluating Graduated Response, a new paper from Rebecca Giblin from the law school at Australia's Monash University, looks at the impact of "three strikes" and "graduated response" punishments for file-sharing. Countries including France, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, the U.K., Ireland and the U.S. have adopted systems whereby people accused of file-sharing have their Internet access curtailed. This takes many forms, from losing access to YouTube and Facebook until subscribers complete a "copyright training course" designed by the entertainment industry to out-and-out disconnection from the Internet.
A good summary in IT News by Juha Saarinen discusses Giblin's findings from an in-depth survey of the file-sharing landscape before and after the introduction of three strikes rules: "There is no evidence demonstrating a causal connection between graduated response and reduced infringement. If 'effectiveness' means reducing infringement, then it is not effective."
Giblin is the author of 2011's Code Wars, an excellent book on the first ten years of file-sharing data.
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The US-Korean Free Trade Agreement came with a raft of draconian enforcement rules that Korea -- then known as a world leader in network use and literacy -- would have to adopt. Korea has since become a living lab of the impact of letting US entertainment giants design your Internet policy -- and the example that industry lobbyists point to when they discuss their goals.
One of the laws that Korea adopted early was the infamous "three strikes" rule, where repeated, unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement leads to whole families being punished through restriction of, or disconnection from their Internet connections. Now the Korean National Human Rights Commission has examined the fallout from the country's three strikes rules, and called for its repeal due to high costs to wider Korean society.
Here's the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Danny O'Brien with more:
The entertainment industry has repeatedly pointed to South Korea as a model for a controlled Internet that should be adopted everywhere else. In the wake of South Korea's implementation, graduated response laws have been passed in France and the United Kingdom, and ISPs in the United States have voluntarily accepted a similar scheme.
But back in Korea, the entertainment industry's experiment in Internet enforcement has been a failure. Instead of tackling a few "heavy uploaders" involved in large scale infringement, the law has spiraled out of control. It has now distributed nearly half a million takedown notices, and led to the closing down of 408 Korean Internet users' web accounts, most of which were online storage services. An investigation led by the Korean politician Choi Jae-Cheon showed that half of those suspended were involved in infringement of material that would cost less than 90 U.S. cents. And while the bill's backers claimed it would reduce piracy, detected infringement has only increased as more and more users are subject to suspensions, deletion, and blocked content.
This Wednesday, Korea's National Human Rights Commission recommended that the three strikes law be re-examined, given its unclear benefits, and its potential violation of the human rights to receive and impart information and to participate in the cultural life of the community.
Korea's three strikes rules are similar to the "Six Strikes" rules that America's leading ISPs have voluntarily adopted and just put into effect. If you want to see the future of American Internet policy, and its fallout, look at Korea.
Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law
As America's phone and cable companies roll out their "six strikes" plans (which they voluntarily adopted in cooperation with the big film companies), it's becoming clear that operating a public Internet hotspot is going to be nearly impossible. Anyone operating a hotspot will quickly find that it can no longer access popular sites like YouTube and Facebook, because random users have attracted unsubstantiated copyright complaints from the entertainment industry. Verizon (and possibly others) have made it clear that this will apply to businesses as well as individuals, meaning that firms will have to spy on all the traffic of all their users, all the time, and heavily censor their use of the Internet in order to prevent them from attracting these complaints.
It's not much of a stretch to see why the carriers would like this: every time you use a hotspot instead of using your phone or device's metered data-plan, they lose revenue.
Also, as the strikes get higher, there are two things to be aware of: ISPs are then more likely to hand over info to the copyright holders, meaning that it could still lead to copyright holders directly suing. That is, the "mitigation" factors are not, in any way, the sum total of the possible consequences for those accused. On top of that, we still fully expect that at least some copyright holders are planning to insist that ISPs who are aware of subscribers with multiple "strikes" are required under law to terminate their accounts. At least the RIAA has indicated that this is its interpretation of the DMCA's clause that requires service providers to have a "termination policy" for "repeat infringers." So it's quite likely that even if the ISPs have no official plan to kick people off the internet entirely under the plan, some copyright holders will still push for exactly that kind of end result.
Details Of Various Six Strikes Plans Revealed; May Create Serious Problems For Free WiFi [Techdirt/Mike Masnick]
Don't Let Verizon Kill Free WiFi! (petition)
(Image: Wifi signal around here (2), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nnova's photostream)
Joly MacFie from The Punkcast was good enough to bring his cameras down to my Pirate Cinema tour stop at Brooklyn's WORD books, and has uploaded the presentation (including the airing of the runners-up and winner of the remix video contest we held) to YouTube. Thanks, Joly!
David sez, "According to TorrentFreak, a leaked AT&T training doc indicates that starting on Nov. 28, if a customer is flagged 4-5 times for copyright infringement, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will block access to unspecified "popular sites" until the customer completes an 'online education tutorial on copyright.' No, there's nothing even remotely Soviet about continuous surveillance that judges you via a faceless bureaucracy without appeal, and punishes you by blocking access to information until you come back from re-education camp. Nothing Soviet at all, comrades!"
The documents inform AT&T staff about the upcoming changes, beginning with the following overview.
“In an effort to assist content owners with combating on-line piracy, AT&T will be sending alert e-mails to customers who are identified as having been downloading copyrighted content without authorization from the copyright owner.”
“The reports are made by the content owners and are of IP-addresses that are associated with copyright infringing activities. AT&T will not share any personally identifiable information about its customers with content owners until authorized by the customer or required to do so by law.”
The papers further reveal the launch date of the copyright alerts system as November 28. A source connected to the CCI previously confirmed to TorrentFreak that all providers were planning to start on the same date, which means that Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are expected to have a simultaneous launch.
AT&T Starts Six-Strikes Anti-Piracy Plan Next Month, Will Block Websites