Ever since the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act bill known (SOPA) met with huge protests, the war on piracy has intensified. The battle began back in 2000 when Napster was dragged into court for massive copyright infringement violations. Now almost 13 years later the fight wages on with some consumers feeling as if the corporate war machine has turned its guns on civilians.
Just how far are these corporate giants willing to go to protect their bottom line?
In Finland, police have resorted to confiscating a 9 year old girl’s Winnie the Pooh laptop for illegally downloading a song that she eventually purchased. Her home was raided by policemen and her father was forced to either pay a hefty fine of $770 to avoid prosecution.
In the United States the Recording Industry Association of America sued a 12 year-old girl from New York City for illegally downloading music along with 261 other people also mentioned in the lawsuit.
Copyright infringement and internet piracy is a crime and prosecution of criminal acts knows no age limits. Fines for illegally downloading can range from between $700-$30,000 per file shared.
However, some feel Internet service providers have taken things too far. Some feel that Internet Service Providers have resorted to spying on their customers to insure they do not download anything illegally due to contracts they have with entertainment companies.
Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America confirmed that ISPs will be updating their system to enforcing anti-piracy policies.”
Each ISP has to develop their infrastructure for automating the system, he continued.
“Every ISP has to do it differently, depending on the architecture of its particular network. Some are nearing completion and others are a little further from completion.”
ISPs all over the country have agreed to implement a six strike warning system, which will warn customers that they are engaging in illegal activity. Randal S. Milch, the executive vice president of Verizon, stated, ‘We hope that effort designed to notify and educate customers not to penalize them will set a reasonable standard for both copyright owners and ISPs to follow while information customers about copyright laws and encouraging them to get content from the many legal sources that exist.”
Mitch Stolz, an attorney for the Electronic Fronteir Foundation, disagrees with the statements of Milch because of other reports that customers will be penalized by slowing down their internet connection known as throttling, suspending service and forcing customers to watch anti-piracy educational videos.
Stoltz stated that “it’s unclear how severe penalties could be for uses who are repeatedly warned under the system.”
He continued to state that he feels that the act is giving the ISP’s role of judge, jury and executioner. “A court hasn’t spoken, it sort of puts the ISP in the position of being a judge,” he said.
Customers download history will be scanned through a database using software from MarkMonitor a brand protection company that monitors p2p sharing networks, collects data, IP addresses and then sends them to ISPs who then use the information to match it to their customers.
“MarkMonitors Identity Tracker is unquestionably the most effective tool we’ve seen for monitoring and protecting the use of our brands on-line,” he continued. “As the e-environment grows larger and more complex, tools like the Identity Tracker are a must-have for companies that value brand protection.”
ISPs such as cablevision are legally allowed to monitor internet usage because of a contractual agreement signed at the time of authorization of service. Cablevision’s terms of service states “Subscribers acknowledges and agrees that Cablevision has the right to monitor content and your use of the Optimum Online Service electronically from time to time and to disclose any information as necessary to satisfy and law, regulation or other government request to operate Optimum Online or Third-Party Providers or to protect itself, its subscribers or any Third Party Providers.” Some members feel that by signing this agreement they have essentially agreed to pay to be spied on. It is imperative that one reads through every single contract one signs and decipher the legal terms.
Early in 2010 dorm residents had complained that Mercy College had blocked peer to peer music sharing programs from being downloaded and used such as Frostwire and Limewire. However, the college was in its full rights to do so because of the liability it would face had students been downloading illegally using campus provided internet service. The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act required that every college block illegal file sharing or take measures to prevent it.
What many students did not know is that their home internet service providers are monitoring their usage as well. Jessica, who wishes to not give her last name, had no idea she was breaking the law by downloading files in her home. “I knew you couldn’t download anything over public WiFi but I thought as soon as I was home I could do whatever I wanted since I pay for it.”
The first strike in the six strike warning system comes to users in the form of an email such as the one sent out by Cablevision that states “We have received notification from one or more owners of copyrights claiming that their work has been transmitted over the internet from your account without their permission. Copyright owners may include motion picture studios, the recording industry or others who produce or distribute legally protected material.”
The letter continues “If the copyright holder pursues this claim, or if there are additional claims, it could lead to legal action against you, we may be required by law to release private information about you and to suspend or even terminate your service.”
Customers such as Michael O. are outraged by Cablevisions actions, “I’m angry, because I feel as if they are choosing sides and they are clearly not on the side of their consumer, it’s obvious they are taking our information and sharing it with other companies,” he said.
Another customer, known as Tim, stated that “I feel like what you do on the Internet is your own business, and I hate the idea of someone being able to see what I do online in my home. I do feel like I’m being watched and it’s not fair.” Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon Fios run ads everyday but they all neglect to mention that when you sign on with them you subject yourself and everyone in your home to be monitored. Both sides of the issue continue to debate whether or not this is against our constitutional rights, however both feel companies have not done a well enough job notifying their consumers that their information and internet history is being monitored nor do they make that fact easily accessible.
Another admitted illegal downloader, Danielle F., said “I do understand why they do it, downloading copyrighted stuff is wrong and costs people jobs, but most people just don’t know the difference.”
Markus Q., an cyber security specialist, agrees with putting a stop to piracy, however disagrees with the current measures being put into place “There is a way to fight internet piracy without harassment and spying on law abiding consumers such as fighting for education of consumers rather than resorting to scare tactics, threats and what essentially equates to extortion.”