'Six Strikes' May Be Dead, But ISPs Keep Threatening To Disconnect Accused Pirates Anyway

from the undead-whac-a-mole dept

Earlier this year, the entertainment and telecom industries' "six strikes" anti-piracy initiative died a quiet death after years of hype from the RIAA and MPAA about how it would revolutionize copyright enforcement (it didn't). The program involved ISPs using a rotating crop of "escalation measures" to temporarily block, throttle or otherwise harass accused pirates until they acknowledged receipt of laughably one-sided copyright educational materials. Offenders, accused entirely based on IP address as proof of guilt, were allowed to try and contest these accusations -- if they paid a $35 fee.

Needless to say, data suggests the Copyright Alert System didn't do much if anything to stop piracy, since most would-be pirates simply obscured their internet behavior using proxies and VPNs. Meanwhile, the supposed "education" the program provided American consumers accomplished little more than driving up broadband costs as ISPs passed on the cost of participation in the farce to the end user.

But while six strikes is technically dead, that's not apparently stopping participating ISPs like Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable (now Charter Spectrum) from continuing to threaten to disconnect users from the internet based on often-flimsy IP address evidence. Users of these ISPs say they continue to receive threats from their ISP that they'll be kicked off of the internet if they don't stop being naughty:

"So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

To be clear ISPs don't actually kick people off of the internet, as nearly everybody (outside of the RIAA and MPAA) has acknowledged that severing access to a necessary utility is a draconian over-reaction to downloading the Led Zeppelin discography. Under the six strikes initiative, nothing actually happened to users after reaching the sixth strike, the hope being you could scare people into compliance (it doesn't work). The only way to ensure compliance would be to craft an organization tasked with tracking individual users as they float between ISPs, an approach France found to be an untenable disaster.

Nothing still happens to users who give a middle finger to these warnings, but that apparently doesn't stop ISPs like Verizon from temporarily suspending user accounts, requiring they call up the droll old telco sexy new Millennial-focused advertising powerhouse to get reconnected to the internet:

"So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month."

Of course many of these ISPs are just going through the motions because of the Cox versus BMG case, in which a notably-distorted interpretation of the DMCA by Judge Liam O'Grady now puts ISP safe harbor protections at risk -- if they don't participate in this useless and costly game of make believe. Most ISP executives I've spoken to make it clear that the broadband industry is cooperating begrudgingly to protect themselves from liability, and are all well aware of the futility and ineffectiveness of these systems, the cost of which are now rolled into your already bloated broadband bill.

So while six strikes may formally be dead, the animated corpse of the misguided concept lives on, with ISPs that don't even believe in what they're doing pretending that this costly and annoying system of threats and scolding actually has any substantive purpose. That, apparently, will have to make do until the MPAA and RIAA (and the myriad of lawmakers and dollar per holler consultants paid to love them) can concoct an even worse idea.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 5:45am

    "That, apparently, will have to make due until the MPAA and RIAA (and the myriad of folks paid to love them) can concoct an even worse idea."

    The MAFIAA existence is the worst idea of all in this madness we call copyright. They have been toxic to humanity for quite a while now. Sadly their predictions that piracy would be their demise haven't materialized, it would have been wonderful.

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

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 6:57am

    "That, apparently, will have to make due until the MPAA and RIAA (and the myriad of folks paid to love them) can concoct an even worse idea."

    That shouldn't take very long. The RIAA and MPAA seem to be remarkably good at that.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 7:43am

    If my ISP/telco threatened to "suspend" my account, I'd respond by threatening to cancel it. But then I live in a country where I'm thankfully not stuck with the likes of Comcast and Verizon, so I suppose it's different there.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 7:52am

    User tracking

    The only way to ensure compliance would be to craft an organization tasked with tracking individual users as they float between ISPs

    So I see you're one of those privileged few with access to more than one ISP. Around here, it's the wireless provider or no access at all.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:22am

      Re: User tracking

      That was exactly my thought as I read that too. To add, if ISPs had real competition, these tactics would end in a hurry. The MPAA and RIAA who continue to insist on fighting this unwinnable battle would be on their own to wrestle with shadows.

      The genie is out of the bottle; the toothpaste is out of the tube regarding digital piracy. It's not going away, so the smart move would be to focus or re-focus on providing content people want to those who are willing to pay for it. Those aren't lost sales- they were never going to be sales. If what you offer with your product or service is good, people will throw their money at it. Innovate or die

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 10:06am

      Re: User tracking

      America has all of the problems of Capitalism, like bloated, stagnant monopolies and your politicians being owned, and none of the benefits, like cheap, high quality goods and services as a result of healthy market competition.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 5 Oct 2017 @ 5:39am

        Re: Re: User tracking

        That's because the market isn't actually free and the people don't know or care enough to organise and campaign to sort this out.

        If a concerted campaign can derail SOPA or ACTA or the alleged healthcare reforms, it can sort out messes like this. Bad actors rely on campaign fatigue so we've got to keep on raising awareness and contacting our representatives.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:05am

    Creative engineering

    The only way to ensure compliance would be to craft an organization tasked with tracking individual users as they float between ISPs

    Those of us that live in the real world know that an IP address does not equal an individual person. So how the hell is this 'crafted organization' going to track individuals? Mind melds?

    Network/computer security is so lax that I find it hard to believe that anyone could prove that anyone else guilty of copyright infringement, even if they had the accused's hard drive. How would they 'prove' that it wasn't a hacker?

    The above premise assumes (dangerous I know) that the judge doesn't sleep through a hearing and that the defense lawyers have some reasonable ability.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:03am

      Re: Creative engineering

      Those of us that live in the real world know that an IP address does not equal an individual person. So how the hell is this 'crafted organization' going to track individuals? Mind melds?

      This really isn't that hard, since the proponents aren't particularly concerned with strict accuracy. Credit reporting agencies have been doing something similar for decades (and making quite a mess of it lately). Assumptions:

      • Accusation = guilt. No proof is required. It just gets in the way.
      • Activity from a given IP address is authorized by the subscriber who pays for service to that address. (Yes, I'm aware there are many ways this assumption can fall down. We're hand-waiving away those details because they only matter if you care about being fair and just, which the proponents of this system do not.)
      • That subscriber has a unique offline identity, traceable to driver license / credit card / address.

      Given these assumptions (only the last of which is generally even somewhat accurate in the real world), we can go from accusation against an IP address to accusation against a customer account number (the ISP's logs should handle this easily). From the customer account number, we can then get the subscriber's offline identity. We then blacklist that identity. New ISP signups check to see if the offline identity to be recorded for the new account is on the blacklist and act accordingly. This scheme probably violates the typical person's expectations of privacy and reasonable process, and may violate a few privacy laws, but it's technically straightforward to implement.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2017 @ 7:04am

        Re: Re: Creative engineering

        "This scheme probably violates the typical person's expectations of privacy and reasonable process, and may violate a few privacy laws, but it's technically straightforward to implement."

        May violate a few laws?
        - lol -

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:33am

    To be clear: "Six strikes" means grandma waking up to six accusations in her inbox all in one night. Which she won't see because her internet has been cut off.

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

  • identicon
    Marty McFly, 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:50am

    You misunderstand

    "Dead" means that the MPAA and RIAA have stopped lobbying for it (and arm-twisting). It's no longer a national corporate campaign.

    But Rightscorp and the other little bottom feeders will continue to threaten to sue under DMCA if ISPs refuse to "remove the infringing content", and they interpret that to mean disconnecting customers who torrent.

    Those lawsuits can be lucrative and the ISPs are unlikely to prevail in court.

    This isn't like legislation being "dead". When legislation dies, it's ineffective. This is a PR(opaganda) campaign, and when those die, business continues as usual.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:51am

    Judge Liam O'Grady really needs to be taken to task.

    His idiotic ruling is based on accepting someone saying that's a thief and throwing them in jail.

    No one can explain how the magic black box works, hell they even deleted code rather than turn it over to be audited.
    No one can explain how the name on the bill became responsible for everything done on the IP assigned to them.
    No one can explain how form letters with no legal basis or adjudication become evidence of a crime.

    IP is our most valuable asset, it keeps bottomfeeders employed extracting cash from the economy while making things worse for all sides.

    Someone shouldn't have to explain to a judge that chicken little screaming the sky is falling, was not actual evidence & shouldn't be treated as legally binding upon a 3rd party without due process.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:29am

    So the system is down but absolutely nothing is changed. It's almost as if we didn't need any more infrastructure for copyright law to be enforced, or waste any money on doing so if the judges and law firms and settlement chasers are going to do it anyway.

    It's also almost as if those pushing for the six strikes system were completely full of it...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 10:41am

    Abolish Copyright

    Stop the madness.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 12:27pm

    But while six strikes is technically dead, that's not apparently stopping participating ISPs like Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable (now Charter Spectrum) from continuing to threaten to disconnect users from the internet

    Comcast owns NBCUniversal and is the world's largest entertainment company, so that's not surprising. Time Warner Cable apparently has no current connection to Time Warner, but it and Verizon would both benefit from scaring cord-cutters into reconnecting to the TV services they sell... not that the current government is actually going to recognize this as anticompetitive.

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


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