Cox Lies To Customers; Says DMCA Requires Disconnects For File Sharing

from the that's-flat-out-false dept

While there's been a big push among the entertainment industry to get ISPs to adopt a "three strikes" policy that would have ISPs disconnect internet access to users accused of unauthorized file sharing, with them losing their account permanently after the third time. This is highly problematic for a variety of reasons, starting with the rather flimsy evidence that the entertainment industry relies on, combined with the idea that the accused are considered guilty with no process of appeal. Furthermore, there's no clear reason why an ISP should act as a copyright cop for the entertainment industry. In fact, many ISPs trashed such proposals, and told the entertainment industry where to shove them. More recently, the EU Parliament rejected such laws mandating three strikes policies, noting that they were clear violations of individuals' freedom.

One of the reasons that the entertainment industry had been focusing on Europe, Australia and Canada for such programs was that it seemed that US ISPs had made it clear that they would never adopt such a three strikes policy. Think again. Apparently cable giant, Cox, has quietly adopted a three strikes policy and is kicking users off the internet if they're accused of file sharing.

Even worse, the company is lying to customers about it, claiming that the DMCA requires them to do so:
Under the DMCA, we have the responsibility to temporarily disable your Internet access, until such time as you take the necessary steps to remove the infringing files and to prevent further distribution of copyrighted material.
This is a complete fabrication. The DMCA has no such requirement. What's really odd is that Cox had built up a reputation as being the customer friendly broadband ISP that took customer service very seriously. Yet, here they are, cutting users off, lying to them about why and relying on the entertainment industry's weak evidence to harm its customers. It's a shame. In the meantime, we'll extend an earlier challenge to Cox. Will it accept a three strikes policy of its own? If it cuts off users three times and the evidence is shown to be false, will it provide free internet access to that user?

Filed Under: disconnects, dmca, three strikes
Companies: cox

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  1. identicon
    angry, 16 Oct 2008 @ 5:54pm

    a situation of this magnitude

    Hope I'm not too late joining the discourse. I actually got a friend's service suspended just a few days ago, whilst using a torrent to download a lecture series on the Emperors of Rome. Note to surfers, avoid that one. Besides the issue of whether it's legal, ethical, moral, etc to download copyrighted material there is, in fact, a very serious issue at hand here.

    The issue is that this ISP has chosen to get into the rapidly growing business of data mining and outright spying on its users. You may argue that it's fair for Cox to terminate or suspend its services at any time for any reason, and you'd be right. You may also argue that they are clearly lying when making the claim that they are legally bound to take that action, and you'd also be right. But what bothers me, and what seems to bother many other commenters is the degree to which Cox is monitoring our internet activity. I saved the html file that Cox displayed during the suspension, and here is copy of their instructions for removing the suspension:

    Step 1. Remove the copyrighted files. the following files must be deleted from your computer:

    [here it lists metadata of the infringing file, in my case it was a folder, notice it does not list the folder's location or its individual files:]

    Title: Teaching Company
    Filename: TTC - Emperors of Rome
    Filesize: 762259288

    Step 2. To avoid any future infringement, we highly recommend turning off the sharing feature of your peer-to-peer software, such as KazAa, Morpheus, Grokster, etc. For specific instructions on how to disable the feature for your specific software, consult with the software vendor.

    Step 3. After deleting the files and disabling file sharing, you may click here [html link to a javascript command] to reactivate your service. Please note that reactivating your connection without cleaning your computer first may result in additional suspensions or permanent termination of your Cox High Speed Internet service

    In step one, I already pointed out the roughness of its hash data, and though it seems likely to produce false positives it did not in my case, the really disturbing part is in the specific language of the next two steps. In step two, it tells you to turn "off the sharing feature" of your file sharing software...the logical inconsistency is obvious, and the mere use of file sharing software is NOT in any way illegal or in violation of any ISP's terms of use. But the real kicker is in step 3, when it states that you must not only cease downloading or sharing the files (I was at a mere 12% when my friend's service was suspended) but you must also delete it from your computer entirely. This of course seems okay, except that you must accept the idea that Cox will remotely search your computer's file system. So what we've learned is that this particular ISP not only monitors your every action online, compares it to a blacklist generated by...well we don't know who it was generated by frankly, but they will also monitor all your files regardless of whether they are shared online or not.

    The irony of the entire situation, of course, is that the files I was downloading are not available to be purchased from the owners of the copyright. It was clearly a bootlegged, recompressed group of mp3's probably stripped from video. The file sizes, number of files, etc was entirely different than what you'd get if you purchased the download legitimately. When a copyright owner goes after a bootlegger, do they also go after people who obtain those counterfeit products?

    I had also just upgraded to the newest version of uTorrent, there may be a connection there as well.

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