Commentary

France To Disconnect File-Sharers?

The music industry's latest salvo against piracy involves lobbying for "three strikes" laws that would require ISPs to disconnect users who have shared copyrighted files online.

So far, the effort seems to be making some limited headway abroad. France is gearing up to pass a "three strikes" law, while the U.K. and Australia are considering doing so, according to Ars Technica.

But it would be a stretch to say there's worldwide momentum behind this effort. Denmark, for one, appears poised to reject that approach, according to TorrentFreak. The European Parliament also has condemned three strikes laws on the grounds that disconnecting Web users is a disproportionate response to piracy.

Currently, it's also not at all clear that ISPs can even detect when people are sharing pirated files, especially if they're encrypted. But even if ISPs were able to correctly identify file-sharers, cutting off their Web access hardly stops copyright infringement, given that people can still trade pirated hard copies.

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What's more, disconnecting users carries its own economic consequences. There's no real question that record companies have lost money due to digital piracy. Revenue dropped from $15 billion pre-Napster to $10 billion last year.

But the Internet is more than just a vehicle for copyright infringement. It's also key to how people communicate, shop, watch video or search for information. Cutting off alleged file-sharers also would result in fewer people reading e-mail, doing Google searches, buying goods online or donating money to political causes via the Web. Increasingly, it would mean fewer people watching ad-supported clips.

Just this week, MySpace said it tapped digital fingerprinting company Auditude to monetize pirated clips by identifying them and then inserting ads. If nothing else, that's at least a more constructive approach to the technological challenges posed by the Internet than seeking to sever people's Web access.

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