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.

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Comments on “The Unintended Consequences Of The Copyright Alerts System”

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30 Comments
Hephaestus (profile) says:

Not learning from past mistakes

Any rational person would look at the failure of French 3 strikes plan and say, this is a bad idea to implement elsewhere. I am convinced that the MPAA and RIAA are pushing this forward so they can say “look we are doing something” to maintain their funding.

The companies funding these groups (MPAA, RIAA, etc) should begin taking a results based funding approach. Or perhaps they should just look at the past 100 years of results, and determine if they should continue funding them.

MikeW (profile) says:

Re: Not learning from past mistakes

“The companies funding these groups (MPAA, RIAA, etc) should begin taking a results based funding approach. Or perhaps they should just look at the past 100 years of results, and determine if they should continue funding them.”

AAACK! Someone is using common sense! They must be a pirate and a pirate sympathizer! Burn them!

Seriously, though. Results based approach? Who needs that when you can ruin innocent people’s lives just fine the old way?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Not unintended

A couple of [the unintended consequences] 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.

I don’t think these are unintended at all. I think they’re part of an intentional effort to reduce the usefulness of the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not unintended

No, they’re part of keeping the uppity masses down. Look st the education system, deliberately removing people from the usefulness of the Internet by claiming it’s a Wild West when it really isn’t. The Internet is ethic-neutral.

And the fact that it’s neutral means that the uppity masses can use it as well as the Old Guard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Not unintended

In America, there seems to be a concerted effort to remove all forms of actual information from the general public. From Telcos who charge exorbitant prices for less service than places like Nigeria, to “news” outlets that are the least honest things in the world, to a “transparent government” that is a thousand times more opaque than gunmetal-black painted windows.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m betting most copyright maximalists don’t even bother with these things. They probably think ah we will stop it by just making it a bit more annoying. And yes if anything ISP’s won’t be able to do anything after a few people get some strikes. I can tell you if I happen to get one which I shouldn’t but if I somehow do I for sure am going to get far more involved in hiding my IP.

Anonymous Coward says:

EA Board of Directors

Since EA customer service and EA management aren’t interested in customer satisfaction, why not look further up the chain of command. Perhaps the EA Board of Directors might be interested in an issue that affects their long-term ability attract returning customers. http://investor.ea.com/contactBoard.cfm

On second thought, I see that the EA Board chairman, Lawrence Probst is also Chairman of the Board of the US Olympic Committee – another organization that doesn’t really care what their fans think.

ahow628 (profile) says:

Bad, but good...

I’ve been saying this for a while that I consider this to be a somewhat good thing. There are many things that we do on the internet that are just plain unsecure (email, http browsing, bit torrent) and I see this as a good thing as it will push us to create more secure protocols and procedures.

It is really unfortunate that this has to be the impetus for introducing more secure measures, but these tribulations will lead to a stronger internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bad, but good...

Unfortunately using encryption on public torrents is less effective than its use as DRM. The decryption key has to be made available to all down-loaders. A VPN would work, so long as it is in a jurisdiction where the MAFIAA can’t serve notices and get ISPs to throttle connections.

charliebrown (profile) says:

Fourth Unintended Consequence

If someone gets cut off the internet, or severely throttled, they might decide “Oh, well, I better stop pirating so I can get my internet access back. Now, let’s see, I can’t buy any music because it’s all online and I have no internet. Oh, and I can’t rent a movie because it’s all done on the internet. I’d buy a book but….”

So, how does this actually help the big entertainment industries again?

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