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Big Brother: Hollywood & Your Internet Provider Will Be Checking Your Download Activity to ‘Protect You’

Stop the Cap! readers Tom and Scott both sent word that the music industry, Hollywood studios, and your Internet Service Provider have teamed up to begin inspecting your downloading activity looking for evidence you are grabbing illegal, copyrighted content from the Internet.

ISPs ranging from Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and AT&T are installing the “Copyright Alert System,” an industry-approved “solution” to copyright theft of online content.  Your ISP will receive word if either the music or movie industry suspects you are trying to download an episode of your favorite TV show or latest Hollywood film from an “unauthorized” download site.  Then, the ISP will start sending you warnings or redirect your web browsing to Alert Purgatory, the place where you learn you are suspected of copyright theft, but haven’t yet been convicted for it.

If you don’t contact your ISP straight away to protest your innocence, your provider may then begin redirecting all of your web journeys to the copyright theft warning website and leave you there until you convince your ISP you are not doing anything wrong.

The voluntary agreement between service providers and copyright owners delivers very little to consumers, despite protestations to the contrary by the cable industry lobbying group — the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

“Consumers have a right to know if their broadband account is being used for illegal online content theft, or if their own online activity infringes on copyright rules—inadvertently or otherwise—so that they can correct that activity,” said James Assey, executive vice president of the NCTA.

Innocent or not, consumers who wish to seek an independent review before their ISP redirects every web address to the enforcement page, can get one — for the low, low price of $35.

Where that money ultimately goes is anybody’s guess, and nobody yet understands the exact mechanism of how consumers can prove their innocence.

Stop the Cap! believes this system does not serve consumers well.  Copyright enforcement measures taken by the music and movie industry in the past have proven to be far from well-targeted, using a “sue first, ask questions later” approach that has cost some consumers thousands of dollars to settle threatened litigation that would have cost far more to defend in court — guilty or not.

YouTube videos cited for copyright enforcement claims may irritate those who uploaded them, but never put YouTube visitors at risk of the Copyright Alert System just for landing on one that a studio executive deemed copyright theft.  Forcing a consumer to pay $35 to defend themselves from watching that New Order music video from the 1980s is simply unacceptable.

Copyright theft is a serious problem, and we don’t blame content owners for seeking to protect what is rightfully theirs.  But as we have learned over the last 20 years, overzealous protection measures have always backfired.  Openly available, legally accessed content from sites like Hulu have put a major dent in illegal downloading of entertainment from torrent sites and file hosting providers.  It’s more convenient, and the studios sell well-tolerated advertising to help pay for the costs.

Solutions like that are far superior than spying on web traffic looking for “illegal downloads” using unknown mechanisms which could prove as unreliable as earlier copyright enforcement efforts.  In the past, profit-making companies with an incentive to identify “theft” have been hired to ferret out those suspected to stealing online movies and music.  With a financial motive to lean towards guilt before innocence, subscribers confront the very real possibility they’ll have to pay $35 to try and prove a negative – that they didn’t engage in illegal downloading.

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jordan
jordan
10 years ago

this site should do a story on what measures we can take to have anonymous internet.i have heard of VPN and I know there are more things you can do.
This copyright cop krap is BS.
one again we have no due process of law,etc.
i bet someone can fake your IP Address so you get busted for doing nothing.

naginalf
naginalf
10 years ago

Um, excuse me, but isn’t that an invasion of my privacy. I see a lawsuit brewing.

shawn808
shawn808
10 years ago

I thought you needed a warrant to deep packet inspect…….

Thank god for usenet with SSL encryption.

me
me
10 years ago

Good thing our rights are sold to the highest bidder. Just in case someone might ‘steal’ something on the internet. I have tried to explain this to a few people and the few who got it were rather ticked. The others had no clue what the argument is even about, as guess what, they DONT COPY things… Isnt there like laws against them snooping on us? Like oh I dont know wiretapping laws… If they dont think this will not be an issue in a couple of elections they are dreaming. They just went to far. Why are my parents… Read more »

me
me
10 years ago
Reply to  me

Now that I think about this a bit more. The ISP’s just got played. The ISP’s have been telling the courts that they can not handle the volume of requests in some of these cases. But if they go thru with this they can. This is going to end up costing them customers and money.

Scott
Scott
10 years ago
Reply to  me

It’s worse than that, the whole point of them going to the courts saying they’re were unable to monitor and didn’t want to, was to preserve their safe habor provision as a communictions provider. As soon as you actively monitor a customers activity that makes you liable for their actiions on your service. This is the difference between say Time Warner Cable and a moderated forum/service. The moderated forum could be held liable for allowing hate speech, links to pirated software, etc if not policed and offenders blocked because they actively police their service, and would otherwise be found to… Read more »

jr
jr
10 years ago

Who’s to say they won’t monitor our online banking next for the war on drugs

Smith6612
Smith6612 (@smith6612)
10 years ago

What happens if I watch a video on YouTube of someone casting a video game tournament? Will I get disconnected because it’s of copyrighted content? The players don’t copyright their gameplay and openly permit people to watch them, and yet the game is copyrighted and the game developers do not care (they openly allow it!). How about visiting sites that have a Copyright on them? I’m technically downloading them saving a copy of them, so shouldn’t I be disconnected?

Stupid on many levels. What was wrong with the old ways of doing things?

Troy
Troy
10 years ago

I wonder if that’s even possible…. There is a giant “phone book” of the Internet called DNS, which tells your to go to 123.45.67.89 when you type “www.somewebsite.com” into your browser. DNS is hosted on every ISP plus various other entities. If I were to change the DNS of my computer from my ISP to Google, as an example, could my ISP STILL redirect me? I definitely don’t give them access to my hosts file on my PC to override DNS settings. Now, for those who don’t know how to change their DNS, then THEY could be redirected wherever the… Read more »

Scott
Scott
10 years ago
Reply to  Troy

That is one way they can do, when you’re running cable or DSL with a DHCP option they also assign you your DNS settings (which of course you can still set manually). OpenDNS.com is one good option. There’s no limit however to the type of meddling they can try or do providing they’re inspecting or altering your data packets. The only safe way around all this is to use the TOR anonymous service or some other VPN tunnel service for about $5/mo to secure your communications. Again just the whole Kazaa P2P fiasco it’s the uninformed masses that will suffer… Read more »

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