The Unintended Consequences Of The Copyright Alerts System
from the creating-more-problems-then-you-solve dept
Since we've learned of the plan for so-called Six Strikes programs by ISPs, there has been protest and warnings from multiple sources about multiple issues. Accordingly, Daily Dot has a nice little piece about what sort of unintended consequences we can expect to come out of this plan. A couple of them are well-traveled ground here at Techdirt, including whether businesses will still offer WiFi when “pirates” naturally flock there to carry out their piratey actions. Likewise, we've discussed the importance of the Open Wireless movement, which will certainly take a massive hit if and when these ISP plans are spun up. All that being said, the third unintended consequence mentioned in the article is probably the most important, since it will render all of this an exercise in futility: greater adoption of privacy tools by the masses.
According to comments Lesser made at an Internet Society meeting in November 2012, the definition of who the CAS is after is extremely narrow, at least for its planned first iteration. It only tracks those who upload the most-popular copyrighted content, like blockbuster movies and best-selling albums, via the peer-to-peer service BitTorrent, and it only identifies them by their Internet protocol (IP) addresses. That's it. So pirates who can avoid BitTorrent, or peer-to-peer altogether, or download without uploading (a major faux pas on some torrent sites), or hide their IP addresses, will avoid detection.
Learning to conceal one’s IP address is already a major point of Internet activism, for reasons that have nothing to do with piracy. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for instance, suggests bloggers in dangerous parts of the world hide their IP addresses to ensure their anonymity from authoritarian governments.
In other words, these plans will spark an interest in privacy tools designed to get around the “strikes”. It's an arms race that essentially cannot be won, because every new tactic simply spurs the growth of interest in counter-tactics and probably leaves the average computer user even more prepared for the next attempt than they would have been otherwise. This type of thing likely creates tech-saavy people where there previously would have been none. Meanwhile, businesses and WiFi device owners will close off access out of fear.
Torrent Freak backs this key point up, noting how few bittorrent users are currently masking their IP addresses and making the case that that number is going to jump after Six Strikes begins.
BitTorrent proxies and VPN services are the preferred way for people to remain anonymous while downloading. These services replace a user’s home IP-address with one provided by the proxy service, making it impossible for tracking companies to identify who is doing the file-sharing. In the U.S. 16% of all file-sharers already hide their IP-address, and this is likely to increase when the copyright alert system goes live.
What's missing from all of this is exactly how any of these plans are going to get previous “pirates” to turn into paying customers for media companies. History suggests they will not do so, will not curb piracy, and will in fact only annoy people who like open WiFi connections and prepare users for the next round of the race all the more. If there were a more perfect definition of a plan that achieves nothing except collateral damage than 6 strikes legislation, I cannot imagine what it'd be.