Tuesday, May 12, 2009

File-Sharing Leads to Call for Net Policing

The guilty verdict in the Pirate Bay proceedings has emboldened many governments to call for more policing of the Web and users' activities online.

Today, a controversial bill in France passed by a vote of 296 to 233. The Creation and Internet Bill is a "three-strikes" policy which will disconnect users caught downloading or sharing copyrighted material three times. The first time, a user receives a threatening e-mail; the second, a letter is mailed to him; on the third time, the user is banned from Internet access for one year. While backed by the global film and music industries, the Bill still has to pass another legislative body to go into action. Governments around the world are watching to see this precedent in action and will likely base their own laws on it.

UK authorities targeted ISPs (Internet Service Providers) instead, tentatively announcing plans to force providers to track their users' activities online. Some nine creative bodies and five trade unions have signed a petition, asking the government to disconnect repeat offenders, which may require the ISPs to reveal the true names and personal information of users. Officials called upon ISPs to be more active last year, threatening possible legal sanctions if they did not clamp-down on illegal file-sharers. UK officials set a goal to cut illegal file-sharing 70-80% over the next 2-3 years.

ISPs rebuked the notion, releasing a statement through Ispa (an organization which represents ISPs throughout the UK) saying the current technology is not sophisticated enough to provide truly accurate results and would likely be inadmissable in court. it called disconnection a "disproportionate response" which should require a court ruling to enforce.

The current method - sending threatening letters to users via snail-mail - proves how dangerous and truly useless such policing attempts are at this stage in the game. Many netizens and casual users received letters when they had never downloaded any content, whatsoever; hijackers and hackers sometimes crack others' accounts to carry out their deeds.

Currently, ISPs are merely conduits for delivery. Ispa told the creative industries individual ISPs would be more willing to police users and carry-out legalities against them if said content providers paid them for doing so. If this model is adopted, it would recognize the Internet as the delivery system and ISPs would be duly compensated as distributors. This would actually be great for end-users, as we would be able to call upon ISPs to reduce their outrageous rates.

Further, Ispa has repeatedly requested the creative and entertainment industries to update their business models when dealing with the Web. With more licensing options for users, it would ease piracy all the way around and benefit the industries, the ISPs, and we netizens. Some creative bodies' spokespersons agree, noting they have to change the current business model.

Officials believe more than 50% of all online traffic in the UK involves illegal content. The recent enactment of an anti-piracy law in Sweden cut Internet traffic into 1/3 its normal rate.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

1 comment:

ManoDogs said...

The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the French Senate.