Virgin Media -- the UK's largest cable-modem provider -- has decided that it will spy on its users to protect the record industry. It is sending out letters to thousands of customers warning them that infringement has been detected on their network connections (Virgin customers who leave their WiFi open -- as I did, when I had their cable-modem service -- will be collateral damage in this fight). Virgin is under no obligation to do this. The law is clear that they bear no liability for downloading on their network, nor do they have any duty to spy on users or send out warnings. This is entirely off their own bat, and will come straight out of the company's bottom line. Of course, the British record industry is ecstatic and sees this as the first step in getting a law passed that will require every ISP to spy on every Internet user in the country and cut off infringers.
The campaign is a joint venture between Virgin Media and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents the major record labels. The BPI ultimately wants internet companies to implement a "three strikes and out" rule to warn and ultimately disconnect the estimated 6.5 million customers whose accounts are used for regular criminal activity.
Oh sure -- you download a couple-three songs and we'll come along and cut off the one wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. Real proportional.
My latest Locus Magazine column is DRM Broke Its Promise, which recalls the days when digital rights management was pitched to us as a way to enable exciting new markets where we'd all save big by only buying the rights we needed (like the low-cost right to read a book for an hour-long plane ride), […]
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