This summer, pirates who torrent copyrighted material and have a major ISP are in for a rude awakening. Starting July 12th most major ISPs, including Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable, will begin taking steps to first “educate” and ultimately “mitigate” pirates by adopting a system of graduated warnings after which repeat offenders may experience throttling of their broadband connection. While the plan was agreed on last year, a list of some of the ISPs involved only came to light yesterday at the Association of American Publishers’ annual meeting yesterday, where they were announced by RIAA CEO Cary Sherman.
So, what exactly is going to happen? If you aren’t a pirate, not much. If you are and if you pirate music from EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner or movies from Disney, Sony, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner, you can expect to start getting warnings. The escalation process goes a little something like this:
- First you’ll get a warning informing you that piracy is illegal and a breach of your agreement with your ISP, in case you weren’t already aware.
- If you get caught again, you’ll receive another warning, this time requiring that you acknowledge receipt and sign a “pledge” to stop pirating.
- If you go back on your pledge, you can expect a Mitigation Measure Copyright Alert which informs you that a Mitigation Measure has been applied to your account. This generally means throttling of upload or download speed by varying degrees, or the reduction of your Internet connection on the whole to be downgraded to the lowest quality above dial-up. They can also alter your landing page to “remind you” not to pirate. This also requires customer acknowledgment.
It’s worth noting that your ISP cannot suspend your VOIP, email, security, or TV services as part of this punishment. The possibility of account suspension has been put on the table, but no involved ISP has dared to touch it.
How exactly are they going to go about figuring out who the pirates are? That’s where the teamwork between the ISPs and organizations like the RIAA and the MPAA come in. Rightsholders will go out onto the net and police the torrent world as they are wont to do. When they find an infringing torrent, they’ll point it out to the ISPs who will then use IP to narrow down who’s doing the downloading and take the appropriate action based on the information they have stored in the private infringement record databases they’ll shortly be required to have.
So that’s it, piracy is over, right? Probably not. First off, this doesn’t cover all major ISPs or all major rightsholders. If a rightsholder isn’t policing torrents, the piracy will go unnoticed, and even when it is noticed, only pirates on the aforementioned “major” ISPs can be narrowed down to IP address and dealt with.
Second, an IP address is not a person, and while it may seem cut and dry enough that infringement tied to an IP address was perpetrated by the owner associated, it’ll probably get more complicated than that. Why’s that? Well, there are things like “friends” and “kids” and “hackers,” but more importantly, remember when the RIAA was caught pirating? Their defense was “Oh, someone else was using our IP.” Expect plenty of other people to say the same thing. It may sound flimsy, but it’s a loophole that makes the more extreme mitigation measures — quality downgrade — to be based on little more than guilt by accusation. And if “It wasn’t me!” is a good enough excuse for the RIAA, it should be a good enough excuse for anyone else.
I wouldn’t expect this plan to roll out completely unhindered, but I also wouldn’t expect it to be completely shot down. That being said, it’s probably going to be facing attacks on both fronts. Any ISP that dares to dole out any of the more extreme punishments in quantity runs the risk of facing legal action and having to back up “IP address as individual” logic, which there is precedent against. On top of that, pirates are sure to be looking for their own ways around the new policies as well, and if they find any promising ones, you can bet they’re going to “share.”
- RIAA denies allegations of piracy in its own ranks
- The MPAA’s gag-tastic statement on the SOPA blackouts
- The MPAA also touts some pretty inaccurate piracy statistics