Or rather, U CAN HAS UR BIT TORRENTZ 4 NOW BUT.
In an effort to combat the illegal downloading of music and movies, the US’s top internet providers have agreed to a new policy. Rather than descending on the teenager next door with a million-dollar lawsuit — which turned out to be “something of a public relations disaster” for music companies for going after, among others, a 12-year-old girl who downloaded songs using Kazaa) — media companies have made a deal with the likes of AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable to give the illegal download-offender a different kind of penalty in a series of six warnings: Those accused of digital copyright infringement will first receive emails. If they continue to download content illegally, they will face “mitigation measures” including slower connection speeds or even being blocked from browsing the internet. They will not, though, be terminated indefinitely from accessing the Web.
Users will also have the option of obtaining an independent review for a fee of $35, notes Reuters.
The Motion Picture Association of America is among the media companies involved in the new policy, along with representatives for independent record companies and filmmakers. It’s an alliance that, says the New York Times, “demonstrates how the once-clear line separating those two businesses has been blurred.”
Eight years ago, the Recording Industry Association of America had to sue Verizon to try to uncover the identity of a customer who was sharing music online. This year, Comcast completed its merger with NBC, bringing an owner of digital content and a conduit for it under the same roof.
Now the Internet providers are hoping to profit as they pipe music and video of the nonpirated variety to their customers.
“The I.S.P.’s want to cooperate with Hollywood because the carriers recognize that their own growth depends in part on bundled content strategies,” said Eric Garland of BigChampagne, which tracks online media traffic. “They don’t want to be just utilities providing Internet access, but premium content distributors as well.”
Content providers — the media companies — will indeed be working with internet providers in a coalition to stop piracy. :
Under the agreement, the content owners will deliver evidence of illegal file-sharing to the Internet providers, which are then responsible for sending alerts and meting out penalties. The Internet providers will not disclose the identity of the offending customer to the media companies.
One further way they’ll profit is that, if your internet access is reduced due to illegal downloading, you still have to pay for the service, or pay the fees if you try to break your contract for service.
According to the coalition of media companies and internet providers, the new policy is not like the “three strikes” one adopted in some European countries, in which a repeated copyright offenders are barred from Internet access, notes Reuters:
“This is not a three-strikes plan. It creates no new laws or legal procedures,” Tom Dailey, Deputy General Counsel for Verizon, said on a conference call.
The primary distinction seems to be that this is not being put forward as law, but rather a series of “best practices” that Internet providers will implement voluntarily. Coalition members said on the call that they will not be pushing for new legislation stemming from this initiative.
While music and arts groups are applauding the new policy, internet rights advocates like Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology are concerned that consumers could now be penalized “based on allegations that have not been tested in court.” Others, including internet music experts, are doubtful that the new policy, which is mostly aimed at those using tools like BitTorrent to share files, will really end internet piracy.
Indeed, I’m imagining that someone out there is figuring out some new way to upload files and make them accessible and (as yet) undetectable even as the new policy is put into place: It’s a wild, wild Web out there.
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