Could Cutting People Off From The Internet Be Dangerous?

from the three-strikes-and-unintended-consequences dept

With the entertainment industry pushing hard for “three strikes” type laws that would kick people off the internet based on three accusations (not convictions) for online copyright infringement, it may be worth asking if there could be some serious unintended consequences associated with doing so. Reader Pickle Monger points us to a story, not about three strike disconnections, but about people taking the extreme step of cutting themselves off, and it quotes psychiatrist Jerald Block who who warns that a sudden disconnection can be quite harmful:

“If you are heavily active [on the internet], by disconnecting you are losing a significant relationship. Those 30 or 40 hours of time now have to be filled with real life.”

Dr Block says some people can find it very gratifying, while others find they are not capable of staying disconnected.

However, he believes the worst case scenario is when the decision to disconnect is made by a third party. “It can be a disaster and can even lead to suicide.”

It’s worth noting that Dr. Block is the same psychiatrist who, a few years ago, suggested that the Columbine tragedy may have been caused not by the two kids playing violent video games, but from being cut off from those games by their parents:

When Klebold and Harris are kicked off their computers, few, if any, would recognize just how important their virtual lives were to them. Most people wouldn’t even know they were in trouble. That would make the punishment much more severe…

For heavy computer users, cutting them off can free up 30 or more hours a week. That is a lot of time to fill, especially for an enraged teen with limited social skills. Unwise. The second issue is to recognize that computer users have a relationship with their computers… As silly as it may sound, being cut off from the system might feel something like being cut off from your best friend…

Frankly, this theory sounds just about as extreme and unsupportable as the opposite one that blames video games for violence. If you’re going to go on a rampage and kill people because you’ve lost your internet access, you’ve got bigger problems and issues than too strong a relationship with your computer. However, it does raise a point that is worth discussing: cutting people off suddenly from the internet may have serious unintended consequences. I don’t think we’ll see a wave of suicides or anything, but it does seem like an extreme response to something like file sharing, and it’s at least slightly worrisome that no one pushing for such three strikes laws is even thinking about what impact cutting people off might have.

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Comments on “Could Cutting People Off From The Internet Be Dangerous?”

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Christopher (profile) says:

Actually, this theory is VERY supportable. For some people, the internet is their only ‘social interaction’ and something that takes up a lot of their time that they would either spend bored.
As the statement goes “Idle hands are the Devil’s playshop!”

Very true, even though I personally don’t believe in the ‘devil’ or ‘god’.

When someone is bored, their mind can wander towards things that they normally wouldn’t think about…. such as murder and mayhem, just to entertain themselves.

No, that is NOT a sign of ‘underlying problems’ because all people have had thoughts and dreams of murder and mayhem…. most are just too ashamed of them to admit that they have had them.

Chris Charabaruk (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. Things like video games and internet access give us an outlet for things we know we shouldn’t be doing in the real world, and so offer us a way to blow off steam in a controlled, safe way.

Remove that release valve, and an explosion is bound to happen. And when that happens, as we’ve seen, people will die or be brutalized in various ways.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“As the statement goes “Idle hands are the Devil’s playshop!””

As Dark Helmet’s saying goes: that’s why they invented golf….

“When someone is bored, their mind can wander towards things that they normally wouldn’t think about…. such as murder and mayhem, just to entertain themselves.”

Er, okay. Why are we assuming that if people weren’t on the web, they would suddenly sit around idle? I’ve taken “web breaks” before. I usually take a 2-3 week one every time I finish a book, to decompress. I golf, I play volleyball, I do some extra running and weight lifting, I watch movies, I (gasp!) hang out more with my girlfriend, I spend more time with my dogs, I cook, I read on my deck, blah blah blah.

Why are we showing such little faith in more internet centric folks than I to be able to find other shit to do?

“No, that is NOT a sign of ‘underlying problems’ because all people have had thoughts and dreams of murder and mayhem…. most are just too ashamed of them to admit that they have had them.”

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve both thought and dreampt (sp?) of murder and mayhem. But when I wake up, and am ocassionally bored, I usually don’t go around strangling kittens, punching grandmothers, raping nuns, or committing raporist hella-crimes.

Honestly, people’s lack of faith in their fellow man is a little depressing sometimes….

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But wait a minute, why is this any different than jail? If we agree on the assertion that the act that would result in internet disconnection is punishable, how is this punishment more difficult to deal with than jail or a halfway house? Many normal punishments seriously reduce social interaction as well.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“If we agree on the assertion that the act that would result in internet disconnection is punishable,”

A giant IF, there. IP addresses are not proof of ID.

“…how is this punishment more difficult to deal with than jail or a halfway house? “

They don’t usually sentence your family or housemates to the same punishment.

jc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The objective of jail is to reduce social interaction (some people would argue rehabilitation but …).

The objective of cutting people off the internet is to convince them to spend all their money on over-priced DVDs and CDs. The social interaction is a side effect.

Also, I think most people would argue that copyright infringement is not typically a criminal act, but rather a form of civil rule breaking. I don’t think it is fair to compare the punishments without first comparing the “crimes.”

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Actually, we agree. I’m not trying to debate whether or not the punishment fits the supposed infraction (I think it certainly does not). I’m just wondering why folks are reacting so differently to this than other punishment methods.

But what I’m taking from this thread is the reason is exactly your third paragraph–they are reacting to the combination, not so much the punishment individually, which makes sense.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

1. Because the punishment hits a household, not an individual.

2. Because it’s ridiculously easy for a knowledgeable person to circumvent (hacking a nearby router, using a mobile device) and thus worthless for stopping repeat offenders – but a great inducement for attacking innocent parties.

3. Because jail is reserved (at least in theory) for the most dangerous and objectionable members of society, while the worst an infringer can do is potentially cause a lost sale of a product they may never have bought.

Even removing the other objections to the actual charge (e.g. flimsiness of an IP as evidence, punishment based on accusations, not convictions), it’s not hard to see the problems.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

This is why the copyright cartel got a law passed to imprison any member of a cinema audience who pointed an iPhone at the screen.

It lets them set the precedent for imprisonment as an appropriate penalty for infringement.

Disconnection upon suspicion is thus getting off lightly – even if the entire household suffers.

“Of course I support copyright and penalties for infringers, but” is simply a modern translation of “Of course I am a devout Catholic and believer in God’s appointment of our church as his divine messengers, but”

Start worrying when ‘information retrieval’ (torture) and ‘permanent disconnection’ (death penalty) re-appear on the statute books. Julian Assange might be a little more in touch with such prospects.

Anonymous Coward says:

Assuming that an idividual really has thumbed his nose at the copyright laws and is unrepentant, it seems to me that if after one or two strikes they continue to thumb their nose then they have no one else to blame but themselves for the consequences of doing so.

Note I said “individual”, and by that intend it to apply to a specific person and not just a general IP address.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Problem is that they’re basically 3x accusations, not convictions (regardless of the wording).

If you get a letter from Y saying your accused of infringing, chances are you’re not going to get off. Gov organizations tend to not respond well to excuses or logic (they hear it all the time and are numb to it). Just look at parking tickets. Barring some insanely strong proof they f’d up, you’re paying.

The other issue is the time it requires to fight it, average person isn’t going to do it unless it’s trivial to fight it (but you run into issue #1). People en mass won’t take off work to go to court to fight warnings.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Except having your internet cut off isn’t “the consequences of doing so”, it is a proposed punishment, under debate as to whether it is suitable for that action.

Someone intentionly breaking a law certainly has themselves to blame for the consequences of doing so, whether it be having your hand cut off for stealing or a slap on the wrist, but I don’t see what that has to do with deciding what punishment should go with what infringments.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Note I said “individual”, and by that intend it to apply to a specific person and not just a general IP address.”

…and therein lies the rub.

Most people who are anti-**AA on this issue are not really averse to seeing people commit crimes being punished. We’ll argue that the punishments are disproportionate and impossible to truly stop, but not that an honestly guilty person should be allow to get away scot free.

But, the evidence being presented cannot finger an individual, nor can the punishment (how can cutting off internet NOT affect multiple people in most houses?) It’s also highly disproportionate to the crime being committed – especially if a member of the household depends on it for their income, and increasing numbers of people do.

Sort out the way to identify the person committing the offence, then and ONLY then should we be discussing the correct punishment when caught.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“…honestly guilty…” That made me grin.

Totally in agreement about determining the guilt of an INDIVIDUAL, not a number granted to an entire household.

I think of my dad, who had been terribly debilitated by lung disease and virtually trapped in his apartment, desperate to hold onto basic independence.

Internet service allowed him to do that, to have groceries ordered and delivered, to do his banking, pay his bills, to order his prescriptions, to stay in contact, to distract his mind from ever circling his deteriorating condition. The internet was a godsend for him, a vital, interactive distraction from depression.

Dad was never a pirate (he could just about email) but what if he’d been accused of such activity, due to malicious outsiders or just a transposition of numbers on a form? It’s not that he would be found liable but the UTTER BULLSHIT he’d have to go through to regain access, to prove himself innocent, good screeching christ it makes me sick to think on it.

This is what terrifies me as a totally ambulatory and healthy individual who also doesn’t pirate, has a secured wireless connection, but could still be ‘malicious-ed’ or ‘mistaken-ed’ into having to deal with such a blatant misuse of our legal system if a system like this was implemented based on an address.

It’s not necessarily going to be the person who opens the door that fired the gun from inside the house.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

> due to malicious outsiders or just a transposition of numbers on a form?

You do not need even that. It is well known that some Bittorrent trackers add random IP addresses to the list of peers they return. All you need is enough luck to be on the list when one of these monitoring systems download it. No malice or transcription mistake needed.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Heh, yeah amusing turn of phrase, kind of wish I’d proofread that before sending (e.g. should have been “the crimes impossible to truly stop” on the second line).

But this is really the problem. The internet is used for much more than posting silly pictures on forums and playing games – it can be a vital part of peoples’ lives. People like your father can have their lives completely destroyed by false accusations under this system – and that’s sadly not an exaggeration.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for evidence that a person has committed a crime before punishing them, nor that the punishment doesn’t destroy the lives of innocent bystanders.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

If you can prove that the individual actually violated copyrights, then you can sue them. There is already a remedy in place for that.

Cutting someone off of the internet is not like taking drugs away from an addict (though their reaction might be like that). The internet is not just a tool for infringement, which is what the content industries don’t see.

The problem is that people who infringement copyrights online also chat online, use email, leave comments in forums, check their bank statements, make purchases, find jobs, sell products, etc.

If I didn’t have internet access, I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I wouldn’t be able to search for new jobs if I lost this one. When I was in school, I wouldn’t have been able to research topics. I wouldn’t have been able to register for classes.

Infringing copyrights should never cut someone off from the rest of the world unless it involves throwing them in jail for an actual criminal offense like the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods with the proven intent to harm the rightsholder’s profits.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Consider Salem

The story of the Salem witch trials should give people a clue what happens when you legislate severe consequences for no more than accusation.

Even if you require the accusation that someone is a witch must be signed by the accuser in triplicate and specify three separate ‘reasonable’ grounds for suspicion, you still end up with a farce (and injustice).

It’s also as much a farce as witchcraft in another respect, because copyright infringement is just as much an offence by a natural being against a supernatural power as witchcraft is.

Sharing music offends the god given power of a musician’s record label to prevent anyone copying it or performing it without their permission.

They didn’t have this power until Queen Anne granted it to them, and even then it was an approximation of the supernatural power some people claimed existed (perpetually).

It is only today that people are recognising that copyright is magical nonsense, and that the power to prevent others copying one’s music naturally ends at the front door. Once you let your music hit the street, it’s everywhere, promiscuous, pervasive, global – if it’s any good…

Expect ‘3 strikes’ excommunications in abundance until the politicians, legislators and witch-finders general also end up disconnected.

MrWilson says:

This just highlights the fact that the internet is not just an entertainment medium (or an entertainment multimedium, if you will), it’s a communication tool, a learning environment, an employment resource, etc.

Cutting someone off of the internet is, in my opinion, a first amendment violation. Unfortunately, people who are naturally social (or just rich and powerful) won’t see it that way.

What about house-bound and disabled people for whom the internet is their social lifeline with the rest of the world? What about students who have to use the internet for research? What about the unemployed who have to use the internet for job-seeking? What about web designers who have to use the internet for work?

Killing someone’s potential for better socialization, better tech-savviness in a job market that demands more of such, better education, and a greater diversity of opportunities all to shore up an already rich and thriving industry’s failed business model is just sad.

Anonymous Coward says:

first off, i ain’t no doctor, so the following with a grain of salt. unless you can’t have sodium, then try ms dash.

i do think there is something to this, but i think the doctor is taking that something a bit far. both communication and stress release are important to the human creature, and either when taken away are going to cause issue.

say you run to reduce stress (blow off steam!). and you run hard, it is what you do. (so violent runner, not a casual one… see what i did there?) now you break your foot and cannot run, but the fires, the causes of the steam that has to be blown off don’t go away. what happens? well, you have to find some other way to blow off steam, or you are going to explode.

same thing with communication. not everyone is good at face to face (i personally don’t like talking on the phone), or whathave you. each of us deals with these things differently, and if i am reading this right, the doc is saying that the sudden removal of the computer, whether that be stress reduction or communication, is not a good idea.

IMHO linking columbine to video games is a stretch, no matter how you put it, so let’s just leave that out. but forced removal from any part of your life, especially something you spend a lot of time doing, isn’t going to go well. would the arguement be the same with TV or fast food or NASCAR? probably.

this is starting to ramble, but let me throw in one last bit. the point, i think, is moderation. moderation in computer use, and moderation in reduction of things.

(yes there is a time/place for cold turkey, but the decision to ‘disconnect’ from drugs can also be suicidal)

oh and eat your veggies and netflix streaming is good.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I do agree that such unfair laws will end up pissing off a lot of people who otherwise would never have taken an interest in placing reasonable limits on IP.”

Yeah isnt it great!!! The unintended consequences, politicians under a microscope while redoing IP laws, more consumer friendly IP laws, copyright returning to 28 years, an end to software patents, etc. You make 1% of the population notice (now) nothing happens, you make 50% of the population notice and piss them off you are in for one very large sh!t storm. Thats why ACTA, HADOPI, etc no longer scare me.

cc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Tbh, I don’t have that much faith in people any more, though I really wish you are right. Consumers again and again fail to criticise and put a check on their oppressors (either through ignorance or apathy), and that could easily be repeated in this instance with dire consequences. That’s why I’m totally terrified by things like ACTA.

Anonymous Coward says:

speaking from personal experience here.

I have at times in the past been totaly emersed in MMO’s like WoW. the game and the social interaction with people on line was seriously the only thing that kept me going through some serious depressive episodes, and being disconnected for even a few hours was agonizing.

i can say almost without a doubt, that if some 3rd party had cut me off at that time, and i could not find another way to connect, i would have either committed suicide, or flown off the handle and attacked that 3rd party however i could, be that bombing or shooting.

really, I dont see this theory as far fetched at all, there are a lot more people out there who cope with major issues by living in online worlds than people recognize.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Disconnection from the net means more time with Jesus

then you can always get a paper copy of the Bible ….

‘ course, if you get accused of writing in the margins 3x, they take away your access to all books for life.

Three strikes – it’s a gateway drug to the most oppressive form of tyranny ever known.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disconnection from the net means more time with Jesus

but i’m an atheist, and have a particular hatred for christians who constantly bully and harass me. I like to spend my time on line trolling christian forums, talking with other people who despise them, and playing online games where i can pretend they don’t exist.

if you take that away i’m just stuck in this small christian town, and no longer have any way to escape from it, even temporarily, i think i’d rather just kill as many of you as possible before you take me out if that’s what my life if going to be like.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Disconnection from the net means more time with Jesus

Can’t resist the snark…

You’re basically saying that being removed from access to of all the modern world’s knowledge and the ability to communicate with anyone on the planet who might have different views would make you revert back to a medieval way of thinking.

I fear that in some cases you may be right.

Anonymous Coward says:

No more Dr. Google assistance to when you get sick, no more assistance from others to help solve a problem, no more political consultations, no more easy studies.

But in the future, there will be no medical assistance or medical monitoring available will be there?

How those laws will reconcile with those future applications that are starting to take hold in houses right now, of course not in the U.S. that is behind the curve, but other countries specially in Asia will find it difficult to adopt those laws or enforce them.

Who wants to reduce the quality of care of diabetics and cardio patients? or access to education?

chris (profile) says:

consider the effects on the household

the problem with accusations, especially when those accusations are based on IPs is that the “internet death penalty” could negatively affect the entire household:

We weren’t mates back then, not until both our families got dragged into the mandatory “safe network use” counselling sessions. He’d been downloading his obscure Keith Kennenson videos for his Great Work, whereas I’d just been looking to fill my phone up with music. We were both kids, dumb enough to do our wicked deeds without a proxy, and so we got the infamous red disconnection notice through the door, and both our families were added to the blacklist of households that could not be legally connected to the net for a full year. We all got dragged down to the day-long seminars where a patronizing woman from the BPI explained how our flagrant piracy would destroy the very fabric of British society[…]

And three months later?when my Mum lost her benefits because she couldn’t go online to renew them and couldn’t get down to the Jobcentre to queue up for them, not with her legs; when his Dad lost his job because he wasn’t able to put in the extra hours on email that everyone else was doing?that’s exactly what we did. We’d caused our families enough trouble. It was time to hit the road.

and of course, there is the fact that it’s impossible to enforce a ban on internet access.

Yogi says:


Actually the reasoning is not so far-fetched. I know people who are extremely dependent on the internet for their social lives – i mean, what about people updating their facebook and twitter once an hour (at least) knowing that their online friends will respond.

I’m sure for some people disconnecting will feel like dying, a threat to their lives. You can imagine what threatened people will do. I definitely see some unintended consequences followed by a major lawsuit. Personally, I can’t wait.

Danny says:

One question...

One thing I’d like to know about the three strikes thing is that how would it be possible to enforce it.

Let’s say I get three strikes. Is someone going to come in to confirm my home connection is removed, my cell phone is reduced to a dumb phone, make sure I can’t use the net at work or at other people’s places, etc…

And let’s say there are three people in the house. If one breaks the three strikes rule then how could you enforce the ban on one person while not affecting the other two?

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: One question...

They’ve thought of this. They will simply suggest you purchase a license-paid internet connection with a ‘share-all-you-want’ deal on it at 1Mbps.

Disconnection is simply the draconian bargaining chip to compromise with.

2010) Disconnect the entire household!
2011) Ok, all ISPs should provide both an unlicensed connection 10M @ $10/month and a licensed connection 1M @ $20/month. People suspected of infringing are disqualified from the unlicensed connection for a year.
2013) Hey, why don’t we cut the admin and discontinue unlicensed connections? It’ll save so much bother.
2014) The Internet is taxed. 50% to government. 49% to publishing corporations, collection societies, etc. 1% to popular independent artists.
2015) A radio based darknet arises…

jsl4980 (profile) says:

Still dangerous

Cutting people off is still dangerous. If you draw a parallel to home phones – lets say it’s the 1980’s or 90’s and some kids were making prank calls so politicians decide “lets take away their phones!” What would they do in the case of an emergency without a phone?

If you look at the situation today – what would you do in the event of a minor medical scare? What if you can’t get on the internet to look up the names and numbers of doctors, poison control, the location of a hospital? I don’t own a phone book and I would have a tough time looking up emergency information short of calling 911. You can try 411 or the operator but it would waste a large amount of time that could lead to disaster.

Anonymous Coward says:

I believe it completely.

I, for one, have incorporated my laptop (and to an only slightly lesser extent, my Internet connection) so thoroughly into my lifestyle that it’s almost like another lobe of my brain. On those rare occasions when I’m completely disconnected from the Internet, I become disoriented and have trouble functioning. I doubt that I’m terribly unusual in this regard, either. While I’m not a violent individual myself, I can definitely see that much distress causing someone to become a danger to himself or to others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Likely to happen...

I would think if people were cut off they would do EVERYTHING in their power to get back on, and do so in as clever an illegal way as possible, and do EVERYTHING in their power to do as much illegal activity as possible. Why not? They have nothing essentially to lose, the Internet is fun/engaging, and at this point it’s trivial to do so, I could no less than 5 public wifi I can hop on, and another 3 are using insecure setups (WPA) that would take a few minutes to crack.

The law is amusing, and I will enjoy watching governments continue to flail about enforcing it…

Mojo says:

throttle speed

If you *must* limit someone’s internet because of repeat infringing, why not simply limit them to a 56k connection speed? That would make file sharing essentially impossible but still gives them a reasonable speed to use the internet for other essential tasks (they may be slow, but at 56k thinks like Facebook, banking, email and chat will work well enough).

Having to wait several hours for ONE MP3 file to download would make most people just give up sharing, and if the infringer continues, at least you know they can’t do very much “harm.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: throttle speed

> Having to wait several hours for ONE MP3 file to download would make most people just give up sharing

You must not have been around back in the Napster days.

Around 10 minutes. That was the “rule of thumb” for how long you had to wait for a MP3 to download on dialup. Yes, people exchanged MP3 files on dialup.

Also, never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of hard disks.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: throttle speed

That would still kill any income opportunities for teleworkers, home businesses, etc., kill IP telephony, etc.

It would also still fail to actually stop file sharing. The person could still hijack another network or, failing that, revert to “sneakernet”. All it would take is one friend with a 1Tb drive for them to get all the music and movies they would have downloaded anyway. One person buying a DVD, ripping it and sharing it in person with 20 friends is the same “loss” as 20 people using P2P and one purchaser – and there’s nothing they can do to stop it…

CommonSense (profile) says:

Ugh, I guess I’m late to the comment game on this one. Anyway…

“If you’re going to go on a rampage and kill people because you’ve lost your internet access, you’ve got bigger problems and issues”

I think that is part of the point of Dr. Block’s report there. People have issues, some people have big issues. Most people find ways to deal with their issues, and the state of the world today gives one ample opportunity to find new ways to deal with their issues. The problem (issues that people have) then manage to stay hidden, so that you may know someone with big issues, but you can’t tell because they handle them. Then when you take away one of their ways of handling these issues, you may not have any idea what exactly you’ve done to the poor soul, because you don’t know what issues they are really dealing with deep down.

Does anyone remember Mel Gibson’s character’s reaction in Conspiracy Theory when he saw a copy of Catcher in the Rye? There’s no doubt he’d have killed someone if they told him he couldn’t buy the book. Is the book the issue, no, but in that case it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back…

Heidi says:

unenforceability of Internet disconnections

I believe that disconnecting people from the Internet is simply unenforceable. It is not possible to observe who connects to the Internet, unless you are actually physically watching. Being disconnected is not at all like enforcing a law such as a driver license suspension. For one thing, a police officer can tell at a glance who is driving a vehicle. On the other hand, when your dealing with Internet traffic, you don’t know who is at the keyboard.
Furthermore, disconnecting people from the Internet raises some interesting conundrums. I am unclear whether disconnection in French law just involves banishment from a specific ISP, or total and complete disconnection. For the sake of argument, let me focus on being banned from using the Internet with1 ISP for a period of time.
Let me walk you through a couple interesting scenarios. In these cases, the people who are disconnected have actually committed copyright infringement, which is a very faulty assumption in the real world. In the first scenario, imagine a teenager who gets disconnected for repeatedly sharing music. He and his entire family connect to the Internet using one computer and one ISP. The teenager comes home. He’s got a research paper due soon and would like to use the Internet to do some research in order to enhance his work. Let us say for the sake of simplicity that she still has full use of the household Internet connection. In the interests of her son’s education, she allows him to do so. What she has just done is broken Three-strikes law. The teenager does the research he has promised and logs off from the family computer. Let’s say that the penalties for breaking three strikes laws are severe, perhaps even criminal. It is likely that the mother is also legally liable for letting her son reconnect in the first place. It is a virtual certainty that her son’s use of the Internet goes undetected. The ISP has no way of determining who is physically using the IP address at that time. Law enforcement cannot track the physical origins of a packet of Internet traffic without putting in place pervasive surveillance monitors in the real world. The webmasters of the websites the teenager accesses have no way of knowing the identity of those who use it unless that information has been volunteered. No matter how severe the penalties are, there is nothing the law can do to stop the boy from using that connection yet again. So long as he does not file share, his actions will go unpunished. The only way to ensure the boy does not connect at home is to place him under physical surveillance while he is there. Anyone care to mension Big Brother here? If you think the mother will withhold any kind of access from her son for educational purposes by placing criminal liability on her, you’d be dead wrong. She knows that her son’s Internet useage is virtually unlikely to go unpunished. Besides, there are plenty of places outside the home her son could use if he wishes to continue sharing songs. As Internet connectivity grows increasingly ubiquitous, the more ways he can find.
Let us take a look at a second scenario. An employed woman is disconnected from the Internet because she is caught sharing books. She runs her own home-based business. It had been thriving prior to the connection. She and her family connect via one ISP. She maintains one computer for work use, and another for her own personal use. Her husband and young daughter do not use the Internet. She uses the Internet in every facet of her business, from selling her product, communicating with her customers, advertising, etc. Without the Internet, her business grinds to a halt. Her product does not have enough market share to sell locally. She lives in a small town and is pregnant. She is now unemployed. Her parents are living overseas. Now that she is unemployed, she does not have enough money for long-distance telephone charges. Skype and Facebook had been crucial to maintaining there very close relationship. As she is the only Internet user, the entire household is disconnected. She cannot bare the thought of losing contact with her parents. After a month of disconnection, she realizes that she desperately needs the Internet to help her find a new job. Her husband has compassion for her plight. He goes to the same ISP and opens an account for himself. He has no plans to use it. He gives his wife complete access to the computer and the Internet connection. Here again, if she does not attract attention to herself, her activities will go unpunished. Here again, only extensive, Big Brother surveillance would keep her away from the Net.
I realize that in both scenarios, reconnecting to the Internet would be impossible if every person living in those two households had been barred from accessing the Internet. This raises some very interesting human rights questions. Should innocent family members or coworkers suffer the same penalty as the one accused of copyright infringement? Should third parties be liable for allowing an unauthorized person to connect to the Internet, whether or not they are aware of such an act taking place? If so, what measures do you think third parties would put in place? Aside from human rights, just how much of a headache do you think upholding three strikes laws will be for law enforcement?
The scenarios will only get crazier if any country mandates a complete and utter disconnection from the Internet. It can be accessed in so many ways. The list will only continue to grow. The more ubiquitous the Internet becomes, the more integral it will be to all of us.
I believe that disconnecting someone from the Internet is about as enforceable as forbidding someone from reading books after being caught with pornography. Three strikes laws will do little to halt online piracy, as they can be so easily circumvented with little risk of being caught.

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