Internet service providers strike back

The fight against Internet piracy moves closer to home

Just when we thought we were safe after SOPA and PIPA were scrapped, the media industry police have thrown another curveball our way.

The fight against Internet piracy moves closer to home

Just when we thought we were safe after SOPA and PIPA were scrapped, the media industry police have thrown another curveball our way.

Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and other major Internet service providers have all recently announced that they will be launching programs to police their networks in an effort to stop digital piracy and illegal file sharing.

This was first announced last summer when the major ISPs said that new efforts were being put forth to prevent illegal downloading of copyrighted material. According to Cary Sherman, chief executive of the Recording Industry of America, the ISPs are now ready to wage their war on those of us who participate in the illegal downloading of movies, music and software.

Sure, we have heard this all before, right? Both the SOPA and PIPA bills made it pretty clear that their main goal was to stop piracy of copyrighted material, so do we really have anything to worry about with this new effort?

Apparently so. ISPs are now developing databases that will log IP addresses and keep track of repeat infringers. Because each ISP is different, the design and infrastructure will vary slightly, but each will operate on the same basic system.

While SOPA and PIPA concentrated on finding those guilty of copyright infringement to “bring them to justice,” this new ISP act differs slightly. Under SOPA and PIPA, anyone found guilty of digital piracy would be tried and sentenced for their crimes. The ISP act works on a more gradual scale.

This means that customers found guilty of illegal downloading will receive one or two notifications from their ISPs alerting them that they have been caught. If the illegal downloading continues, subscribers will receive another notification that requests acknowledgment that the notifications have been received.

After this, bandwidth allocation can be cut and Internet service could potentially be shut down. Many Internet providers have not released whether or not they agree with cutting Internet service of those found guilty, but a final decision remains to be seen.

This new effort is coming just months after Megaupload, an Internet file-sharing entity, was shut down by the FBI. Despite Internet users losing access to one of the major file-sharing websites, piracy has, surprisingly, not slowed down since Megaupload’s demise.

According to DeepField Networks, an Internet consulting firm, Megaupload’s files counted for around 30–40 percent of all file sharing prior to the takedown.

That may seem like a big chunk of Internet usage going away after the takeover, but Megaupload’s closure has not had the effect on file sharing that copyright owners may have hoped. DeepField stated that web traffic related to file sharing recovered almost immediately as users utilized other file-sharing havens.

It is understandable that media corporations want to protect their copyrighted material; it is, after all, how they make money. However, if we could not pirate music, movies and other media, would we go out and buy them?

For the majority of the population, especially the college-aged group, the answer is most likely no.

As with the heated responses to SOPA and PIPA, if people really want to download copyrighted material and participate in illegal file sharing, they will find a way to bypass any efforts put forth by the government and media industries.

Pirating media is easy, and almost anyone can figure it out with little or no help. Internet users are not just going to sit idly by and let something like this happen.

One major problem with the ISP plan of attack is how they plan on figuring out who is actually pirating copyrighted material, and who isn’t. For example, if you’re using Mediafire to share the files needed for a group project, how will that file sharing be recorded? Will the ISP technicians be able to distinguish between copyrighted and non-copyrighted material from a remote location?

The various ISP companies have not yet stated how that will work, but we can be sure that many revisions and technical tweaks will be going on before there’s a final system.

In the current state of things, is Internet piracy what we should be focusing on anyway? Never mind the wars we are involved in, unemployment, education and anything else you can think of. Heaven forbid that poor college students download an album because they are spending their money on tuition, groceries and rent.

It is understandable that big media corporations want to stop piracy; that is how they make money. But many musicians and artists are happy knowing that their work is being seen, heard and enjoyed by fans.

If you were to survey college students and ask them if they were guilty of downloading music and other media, most would probably say yes. Digital piracy is going to happen whether the government likes it or not, and if it keeps getting restricted, people are just going to get more creative.

If you’re super concerned about whether your ISP is going to start policing your Internet usage, contact them and ask about any new policy changes coming up. If you are going to pirate an album or film, know what sites are safer than others. This new policy won’t be starting until July, but keep in mind that your IP address could be logged for future reference.

Stay educated and stay alert.