ISPs Reluctantly Team with Entertainment Industry to Fight Piracy

by Jeff Wiener on July 8, 2011

A group of top American Internet service providers has teamed up with the entertainment industry to crack down on online piracy. ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T joined with entertainment groups like the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America to introduce “historic” measures to combat piracy.

ISPs will send “copyright alerts” to Internet subscribers when content theft appears on a particular connection. Should a subscriber not respond to multiple alerts, the ISP will be able to limit connection speed and, in some cases, eliminate access to the Internet entirely.

The notifications have been part and parcel with ISPs in the United States for some time now, but the response to missed or ignored alerts is something to talk about.

ISPs have been reluctant to push more extensive measures in response to this issue, so to have something on the table is a win for Hollywood and the entertainment industry. The industry initially asked for a “three strikes” plan that would see alleged pirates receive three notifications prior to the suspension or termination of service. The ISPs refused to go there, but, in the end, the direction they’re walking in isn’t all that different.

The ISPs are not fond of being associated with tinkering with subscriber access in the least, but there’s only so long one can fight against the powers of the entertainment industry – especially when politics gets into the picture.

In essence, this deal means that the entertainment business has pushed the ISPs into the roles of “copyright cops.” They’ll do industry bidding, knifing away access from suspected pirates and managing their industry in a way that best suits the entertainment juggernauts.

The Center for Democracy & Technology and Public Knowledge responded to the Thursday news in a joint statement, asserting that the deal could lead down a very slippery slope. “Among our concerns, we are particularly disappointed that the agreement lists Internet account suspension among the possible remedies. We believe it would be wrong for any ISP to cut off subscribers, even temporarily, based on allegations that have not been tested in court,” reads the statement in part.

It’s hard to imagine that this deal will actually curb piracy in a serious way. Content and file sharing is part of the lifeblood of Internet culture and ISPs, in general, do not want to shut off the pipes for customers of any stripe. Whether they’ll respond further to the mounting industry pressure remains to be seen, of course, and something tells me we haven’t seen the last of this issue. Not even close.

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Written by: Jeff Wiener. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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