Commentary

Hollywood Asks FCC To Back Three-Strikes Piracy Plan

Entertainment companies have been saying for a while that they'd like to see Internet service providers deal with piracy by developing "three-strikes" plans that could result in disconnecting copyright infringers.

So far, however, U.S. ISPs haven't been all that receptive. Even though the Recording Industry Association of America announced last December that it was going to stop suing individuals suspected of file-sharing and instead work with ISPs to implement "graduated response" programs, it doesn't appear that any major ISPs are on board.

Of course, it's not at all clear that ISPs will ever embrace any plan that calls for them to cut off paying subscribers.

Nonetheless, the Motion Picture Association of America is taking its case to the Federal Communications Commission. The MPAA recently filed a 34-page report commenting on the role of content in the broadband ecosystem, and asking the FCC to bless the concept of a graduated response program in its national broadband plan.

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"The Commission should recommend that Congress encourage ISPs to work cooperatively with technology innovators and the creative community to implement the best available, commercially practicable graduated response policies ... to diminish the theft and unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials online," the movie studios state.

The MPAA also argues -- based on highly questionable "evidence" -- that illegal content accounts for much online traffic. The MPAA's proof? Statistics showing that most content downloaded through Grokster infringed on copyright. But Grokster is only one company -- and one that was found liable in court for copyright infringement -- not the Web at large.

The MPAA additionally tries to prove its case by arguing that peer-to-peer traffic accounts for much Web activity -- but fails to address the fact that peer-to-peer traffic can be perfectly lawful.

While the MPAA's assertions are questionable in themselves, its conclusion that the government should encourage disconnections is especially troubling. Currently there's reason to suspect that many people are wrongly identified as potential file-sharers. Last year, researchers at the University of Washington reported that the procedures used by entertainment companies to identify infringers often end up targeting the wrong people.

Even if entertainment companies and ISPs correctly identify illegal file-sharers, disconnecting them from the Web does a lot more than just stop the piracy. It also stops people from reading online newspapers, sending emails, or engaging in a huge amount of activity that's protected by the First Amendment.

For that reason, the FCC or Congress isn't likely to mandate three-strikes policies any time soon. But the government also shouldn't encourage ISPs to hatch plans that would have the same effect.

2 comments about "Hollywood Asks FCC To Back Three-Strikes Piracy Plan".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 4, 2009 at 6:24 p.m.

    So it's not a question of how many strikes, but that users should have unlimited chances to break the law? And it's not really a question of breaking the law, is it, if you can claim that the copyright holder's evidence, however great, is somehow insufficient in highly-nuanced way?

    Nice little responsibility-free dream world you have there.

  2. Nelson Yuen from Stereotypical Mid Sized Services Corp., November 5, 2009 at 1:49 p.m.

    Douglas Ferguson

    It says you're from the College of Charleston

    You can't be a student... the position you're taking comes from an old school stagnant business model that largely ignores market paradigms and shifts in content consumption.

    In all seriousness... I'll try to close the generational gap for you.

    Try to ignore the legalities.

    It's a waste of time debating the legitimacy of p2p, copyright infringements, etc. etc. By the time you're done with that discussion, people will be consuming content on a cloud model and no one will be downloading anything - just consuming.

    Let me paint a scenario for you. Let's say the entertainment companies win. ISPs start to monitor p2p, torrents are eliminated from the web, and for some miraculous reason people stop sharing content.

    What are my options as the evil echo boomer or gen y trying to co-exist with regulation???

    Well I can (A) just stream everything.

    I can (B) ONLY consume amateur content - after all relevancy is eight tenths of engagement.

    Or (C) I can just boycott something I've always had access too for free - eliminating any cross marketing or media marketing initiatives outside of the traditional space that I have always had to pay for.

    Wait wait, let me make it clearer. I can either:

    (A) Buy a mobile phone or music listening device that has an active web browser or app for imeem.com, lastfm.com, etc

    (B) Watch videos on YouTube or DailyMotion

    (C) I can just NOT buy the latest DVD of Saw VI and companies can forgo the opportunity to cross market the Video Game, the Halloween apparel, and or anything else relevant.

    Side Note:

    "pirates are ten times more likely to buy music."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/apr/21/study-finds-pirates-buy-more-music

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