Royalty Collection Agency SABAM Sues Belgian ISPs In Pursuit Of Its Fantasy 'Piracy License'

from the clutching-at-straws dept

Back in November 2011, we wrote about the Belgian music royalty collection agency SABAM's demand for 3.4% of Internet subscriber fees as "compensation" for online piracy in Belgium. As Tim Cushing explained back then, this was ridiculous on just about every level. But SABAM doesn't let little things like that get in the way of its desperate attempt to avoid moving with the times and coming up with new business models. So after failing dismally to convince Europe's highest court that it could force ISPs to spy on their customers, SABAM has now moved on to suing ISPs instead, as TorrentFreak reports:

This week SABAM sued the Belgian ISPs Belgacom, Telenet and Voo, claiming a 3.4 percent cut of Internet subscriber fees as compensation for the rampant piracy they enable through their networks.

SABAM argues that authors should be paid for any "public broadcast" of a song. Pirated downloads and streams on the Internet are such public broadcasts according to the group, and they are therefore entitled to proper compensation.
One of the ISPs being sued, Belgacom, has a better analogy for what's going on here:
"A postman doesn't open letters he delivers. We are also just transporting data, and we are not responsible for the contents," Belgacom says.
That's the "mere conduit" principle, and as TorrentFreak points out, if that defense is overturned here, and the "piracy license" is imposed, the cost will inevitably be passed on to users, which means that people who buy music legally will be paying twice for the privilege. And of course, it wouldn't just be SABAM: the other copyright industries -- films, books, photos, software, games -- will doubtless all line up for their free handout, making online access prohibitively expensive in Belgium.

But along with all the other problems mentioned by Tim back in his 2011 post, there's another major flaw in SABAM's logic. According to recent work carried out by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, it's not even clear that the recorded music industry is being hurt by unauthorized downloads:

Perhaps surprisingly, our results present no evidence of digital music sales displacement. While we find important cross country differences in the effects of downloading on music purchases, our findings suggest a rather small complementarity between these two music consumption channels. It seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them. The complementarity effect of online streaming is found to be somewhat larger, suggesting a stimulating effect of this activity on the sales of digital music.
That is, streaming sites might even promote digital music sales; so maybe SABAM should be giving money to the ISPs, not asking for it....

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, May 7th, 2013 @ 7:42am

    Once again corrupt collection agency try to extract more money from anyone they can. For shame

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:02am

    SABAM sounds like the Belgian RIAA.

     

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  3.  
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    jameshogg (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:04am

    Delusional nonsense.

     

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  4.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Yeah, because the only use for the Internet is piracy. These collection agencies are the most morally bankrupt organisations there are. They need to be shut down ASAP.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Another AC, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    moving with the times and coming up with new business models

    For the record collection agencies aren't businesses. Well, they're not supposed to be anyway.

     

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  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    "these two music consumption channels" are illegal piracy and (presumably legal, revenue paying) streaming.

    Therefore, that "streaming sites might even promote digital music sales" isn't even in question (if it's just like radio, you know, LEGAL), making your conclusion "so maybe SABAM should be giving money to the ISPs, not asking for it...." just plain wrong and stupid because slyly switches the object to imply that piracy helps sales.



    ^^^ Heh, heh. Clones again stealing my valuable screen name. You kids are SO feeble. No matter how often I state the obvious, that you're helping ME, not Mike, you keep at it. -- And again, the name is valuable precisely because copied!



    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    If you like yapping ankle-biters, you'll love Techdirt!
    04:12:42[ -145-6]

     

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  7.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    I would just like to add that this has the same problem as the blank media levy.

    Why should a levy be placed on all sales of blank media even when that media is not used for illegal content?
    Why should a levy be included on all Internet subscriptions even if that person does not pirate?

     

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  8.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    Would you be happy paying extra for your Internet connection because of piracy even though you do not pirate?

    That is what would happen, ISPs would pass the cost on to the consumer.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    vastrightwing, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    ISPs to demand Payola

    ISPs, in order to be more profitable have stated an old radio station practice of charging the music industry payola. This practice dates back to the 1950s when Dick Clark was involved in a big scandal. Some things just never change.

     

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  10.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    "And again, the name is valuable precisely because copied!"

    And I would apply the same logic to music, movies, books etc

     

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  11.  
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    Anders Nielsen (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:28am

    Remember, all car owners has to pay for extra to the prisons, as the roads are used for transporting illegal goods all the time. This is only fair, right?

    OOTB, drop dead.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:29am

    so if they end up paying for this "piracy license" through isp subscription costs, then piracy becomes legal, no?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    Quite correct good sir however I don't think you are who you say you are.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    They're extortion rackets, at least IP ones are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    True Value

    It appears that there might be two sides to the coin. If we accept the premise that 'all content' is worth 3.4% of your Internet connection cost, and let's say your connection cost is $50 (for arguments sake) per month, then 'content' cost is $1.70 per month. Let's assume also that your connection cost goes up by that $1.70 per month. This would mean that all music, videos, TV shows, movies, books, etc. would all be PAID for and there would be nothing illegal from downloading ANYTHING. For $20.40 per year. Oh, and as pure icing on the cake, we then get to watch them fight amongst themselves on how to divvy it up (oh, listen to the creators; big vs little, how will that work).

    The other thought was that it puts an actual value...err price on world content output at roughly $20.40 per year times the number of folks on earth, lets call it 7 billion, or $142.6 billion dollars per year, for ALL books, movies, music, videos, 3D printer codes, games, textbooks, software, etc., AKA anything one can download. How does that relate to current 'entertainment/information' costs? Would they actually accept such a limitation?

     

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  16.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:43am

    Re:

    Yep, I would take it as authorisation to start downloading whatever I want from where ever I want.

     

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  17.  
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    Rob (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:55am

    Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    ^^^ Heh, heh. Clones again stealing my valuable screen name. You kids are SO feeble. No matter how often I state the obvious, that you're helping ME, not Mike, you keep at it. -- And again, the name is valuable precisely because copied!

    Assuming that is out_of_the_Blue, I cannot believe he/she has finally seen the logic behind something is valuable because it is copied, which goes against all the rhetoric about stopping any coping at all costs - it only leads to doom, doom, doom!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Rob (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    edit: copying not coping although coping with copying might be healthy

     

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  19.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    It won't apply to content in his mind

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 9:00am

    Re: True Value

    7 billion people many, many fewer internet connections.

    I found a source for 2,405,518,376 internet users (in 2012). Adjusting for families and businesses sharing connections I think a more reasonable (and simple) figure to use would be 1 billion paid for connections.
    That is only $20,400,000,000. Hollywood made nearly half that in 2012. The games industry apparently made $67 billion so I don't think they'd like to have to share.

     

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  21.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    "claiming a 3.4 percent cut of Internet subscriber fees as compensation for the rampant piracy they enable through their networks"

    eh, I'd just file an exact counter suit for 3.4 percent cut for the 'rampant commercial success they enable through their networks'

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Re: ISPs to demand Payola

    well, there are some moves in the opposite direction with mobile providers offering a bundle including a music subscription or a music shop. That shit has to piss off collection societies since they won't get any cut of that pie!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 9:21am

    The funny thing is that this has already being proposed, just not this way (suing) of course.

    I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra (no more than 15%) for my internet connection if it grants me the right to download legally whatever I want.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing, it was proposed in France some time ago and, if my memory delivers, something similar in Brazil and Canada. (It was called “Licencia General Opcional” or something like that in Spanish, I couldn’t find a proper translation).

    Bottom line is, I would pay a freaking levy if they keep their hands off of the Internet and stop suing the hell out of everyone.

     

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  24.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    I do not pirate content nor do I want to so I would object strongly to such a levy.

    That said, if a levy were introduced, I would start pirating content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    The ultimate goal of any for-profit org is to literally turn you upside-down and shake every penny out of your pockets. Taking just 3.4% must seem a teeth-grinding compromise for SABAM (and does anyone else think that name sounds like laundry detergent?). Companies may propose any damn thing they please; it's up to those affected by these proposals to tell them to go pound sand.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 9:45am

    and all SABAM is doing is following on from what the arse holes in the USA entertainment industries started. no good will come out of this as eventually, there will be a mass resistance to having to pay people who have done nothing, who are doing nothing and will do nothing that is of benefit to anyone other than themselves. this 'we are collecting on behalf of' is nothing but crap to make it appear that they are acting for an artist.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re:

    OotB hates corporations and their pursuit of the extraction of money from the pockets of private citizens. Occasionally, this allows his views align with those of TD articles.

    He's consistent here.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I guess I was wrong, looking through the rest of the thread.

    I've been hoodwinked.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Ruben, May 7th, 2013 @ 10:16am

    Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    I love you.

    You make me feel smart.

    Watching you grasp at straws is both entertaining and reassuring.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    I'm a complete idiot and even I look smart next to him.

     

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  31.  
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    Ninja (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re:

    does anyone else think that name sounds like laundry detergent?

    me o/

     

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  32.  
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    Ninja (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    And again, the name is valuable precisely because copied!

    O good, so you condone, support and practice piracy. Good to know!

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    BigKeithO, May 7th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re:

    You wouldn't be pirating anymore though, you would be pre-paying for all your content consumption through the year. Content industries are just assuming that you would be consuming so you might as well.

     

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  34.  
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    Jay (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    "Yeah, because the only use for the Internet is piracy."

    Actually, the most trafficked thing on the internet is porn. It makes up 30% of the bandwidth that is exchanged. just think about that, You have a site that traffics in just porn that is even bigger than Netflix while Youtube has much more traffic than both combined.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    One of the ISPs being sued, Belgacom, has a better analogy for what's going on here:

    "A postman doesn't open letters he delivers. We are also just transporting data, and we are not responsible for the contents," Belgacom says.


    Good analogy, faulty conclusion.

    The USPS. FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc all monitor packages they deliver for drugs, weapons, etc. It is routine procedure. They accept that role to assure that their package delivery ecosystem is as free from criminality as it can be. Banks and others in the financial world likewise stand vigilant against money laundering and other financial crimes. Only the ISP's try to wash their hands in the Holy Water and claim they have no responsibility to address the criminal conduct their networks facilitate. This argument has grown stale and six strikes and measures to block rogue websites is simply a natural progression of corporate responsibility that will either grow voluntarily or be required legislatively.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    Well, I agree with the first part....

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 12:50pm

    Re:

    drugs and weapong harm society. Free illegal music downloads hurt a particular business. Call me crazy, but preventing drug abuse / murder is mroe important to me than protecting the profits of a few companies who want thigns to stay in 1980.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re:

    You inject your moral judgment into this. Drugs, weapons, child porn, money laundering and digital theft are all crimes and each harm a segment of society. The point remains that ISP's are just like the post office.... except, unlike the postal service, they take no responsibility for the criminal misuse of their ecosystem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Digitari, May 7th, 2013 @ 2:13pm

    Re:

    News flash: ISP's to Hire piracy sniffing dogs.............

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    nasch (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 2:48pm

    Re: True Value

    This would mean that all music, videos, TV shows, movies, books, etc. would all be PAID for and there would be nothing illegal from downloading ANYTHING.

    That would be nice, but of course it would still be illegal. They want it both ways, as always.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 2:49pm

    Re:

    The USPS. FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc all monitor packages they deliver for drugs, weapons, etc. It is routine procedure. They accept that role to assure that their package delivery ecosystem is as free from criminality as it can be. Banks and others in the financial world likewise stand vigilant against money laundering and other financial crimes. Only the ISP's try to wash their hands in the Holy Water and claim they have no responsibility to address the criminal conduct their networks facilitate.

    Let us know when USPS, FedEx, and the rest monitor their mail and packages for copyright infringement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Last paragraph conflates piracy and streaming:

    And yet he doesn't take the simplest of measures to protect it, like he keeps on bitching about. Like the 'AA's, he expects everyone else to do the work of protecting what he deems valuable, instead of him taking two minutes to register an account here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Rikuo (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So tell me...when was the last time someone died from an illicit download? I can understand postal services screening for weapons, because they, you know, kill people , but a copyright infringing file?
    Besides...how is the ISP supposed to know?
    1) There is no Central Copyright Database they can check
    2) File names can be misleading.
    3) File sizes can be misleading.
    4) Monitoring like this would be a massive invasion of privacy.
    5) This ignores fair use/fair dealing/fair whatever laws.
    6) Only a copyright holder can say for sure whether a particular work is authorized somewhere, and as Techdirt reports, not even they can be trusted (e.g. Viacom v Youtube)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Besides...how is the ISP supposed to know?

    The US ISP's seem to have nailed it through the six strikes program. Interesting how after all of the initial sniveling about collateral damage and unintended consequences; that TD has been silent on the subject. Says to me it works- doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Yet foreign ISP's simply turn a blind eye because piracy provides them revenue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 4:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Six Strikes is all about accusations. That's all. A guy walks up with an IP address, yells "Copyright!" and according to the system, the ISP has to take him at his word, instead of (in a sane world) telling him to fuck off and maybe try going through the legal system first. Also, Six Strikes has only been out for about 2 or 3 months so far, so it's early days yet. Eventually, it's inevitable, there will be scandals over it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You'd think that there'd be more glitches at the launch than when there's more experience with the program. It's been more like five months, I believe. If those accusations were much less than spot-on; I think you'd have heard a lot moaning by now. But oddly enough, radio silence. The contrived parade of horribles has simply never materialized.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Even if there isn't (yet) a parade of horribles, the simple fact this system allows for such a thing is alarming in and of itself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2013 @ 5:54pm

    Even if there isn't (yet) a parade of horribles, the simple fact this system allows for such a thing is alarming in and of itself.

    Let's face it. You're a Chicken Little alarmist. Grandma's VOIP isn't being turned off. No chorus of the wrongly accused has materialized. Freeloaders are being held accountable. That's your real objection. All of the huffing and puffing about imaginary consequences is just a smoke screen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    icon
    JMT (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "You inject your moral judgment into this. Drugs, weapons, child porn, money laundering and digital theft are all crimes and each harm a segment of society."

    And the harm to society caused by drugs, weapons, child porn and money laundering and all far, far worse than the harm supposedly caused by "digital theft", i.e. copyright infringement. It's extraordinary that your own moral compass is so misguided that you would think these things are on the same level of harm. I'm not sure which possibility is worse; that you think copyright infringement is just as bad or if the others are not really all that harmful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    AC Unknown, May 7th, 2013 @ 7:31pm

    Re:

    Nice ad-homs. Maybe you should go hang out with your buddies on pro-MPAA/pro-RIAA sites.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    tqk (profile), May 7th, 2013 @ 9:00pm

    Re: Re:

    I'd just file an exact counter suit for 3.4 percent cut for the 'rampant commercial success they enable through their networks'

    As one who never "pirates" copyrighted content (I boycott them), I'd consider suing for slander. How dare they assume the right to judge me? My ISP connection is used to infringe copyright? Nuh uhh!

    Chutzpah.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    nasch (profile), May 8th, 2013 @ 6:34am

    Re:

    Grandma's VOIP isn't being turned off. No chorus of the wrongly accused has materialized.

    It's very early, as has already been pointed out to you. HADOPI took a while to get screwed up too.

    Freeloaders are being held accountable.

    Dare I ask if you have a reference to back up that claim?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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