from the about-time dept
The pointless "six strikes" plan -- a hilarious "voluntary agreement" between some big ISPs and the MPAA & RIAA is no more. It's dead. It never should have lived, and of course, the MPAA is now blaming everyone but itself for the failure -- and we'll get to that. But first, some background.
As you may remember, back in 2011, after significant direct pressure from the White House, many of the big ISPs and the MPAA & RIAA came to a (ha ha) "voluntary" agreement on a six strikes program to deal with "repeat infringers." There was a lot of history behind this, which we won't rehash, but the shorter version is that, for many years, the MPAA & RIAA have stupidly believed that if you could kick people off the internet (completely) if they're caught infringing three times, that would magically make piracy go away. They got a "three strikes" law passed in a few countries, starting with France. It was a complete disaster, as basically everyone who wasn't from the MPAA and RIAA predicted.
In the US, it became clear that there wasn't the political appetite to push through a three strikes law, so instead parts of the government, starting with the White House, started putting tremendous pressure on ISPs to work out a deal. The negotiations took a very, very long time. There were lots of rumors about them and then radio silence -- until the "six strikes" deal was announced. The "compromise" was that (1) it was six strikes instead of three and (2) after six strikes... nothing happened. The key aspect of the three strikes plans the legacy entertainment industry had pushed was that you lose your internet connection. But the ISPs, rightfully, considered that a complete dealbreaker and basically refused any deal with a cut off.
Of course, just months after the agreement was reached, the whole SOPA/PIPA thing happened, and ISPs realized that they probably could have pushed back even harder and not agreed to a crummy deal. The implementation of the plan was delayed repeatedly, and it was believed that some of the ISPs wanted to renegotiate post-SOPA.
The plan finally went into effect, and just as lots of people predicted, it had no real impact. Just as everywhere else where this plan went into effect, people who really wanted to find infringing works continued to do so. They just found ways of avoiding being spotted. It certainly didn't magically make people want to go out and buy stuff. The organization that was set up to manage the six strikes program, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) bravely put on its best Baghdad Bob beret and insisted that the plan was working great -- even as leaked documents showed that Hollywood knew from early on that the plan was a dud.
And now it's dead:
Major internet providers are ending a four-year-old system in which consumers received “copyright alerts” when they viewed peer-to-peer pirated content.
The ISPs, studios, and record labels did not extend a pact that implemented the voluntary program, viewed as a way to fight piracy without the need for congressional legislation. When it debuted in 2013, it was viewed as a major new initiative to fight piracy, with Internet users subject to repeated notices if they continued to access infringing content.
But, true to form, the MPAA wants to point the finger at everyone but itself for its own failures to stop treating fans as criminals:
Although no reason was given for ending the program, the MPAA, in a statement from its general counsel, indicated frustration at the inability to stop repeat infringers.
“These repeat infringers are the ones who drive ongoing and problematic P2P piracy,” Steven Fabrizio, executive vice president and global general counsel at the MPAA, said in a statement. “In fact, an estimated 981 million movies and TV shows were downloaded in the U.S. last year using P2P. ”
Left out of this, of course, is the fact that the movie studios had the best year ever last year in terms of US box office revenue. And that more and more people are happy to pay for services like Netflix, even as the studios have been basically pulling tons of movies from those legal services.
We've been saying it for nearly two decades, but piracy is not the problem. Not listening to your customers is the problem. The MPAA is so focused on punishment it never recognizes that the carrot works better than the stick (which never actually works).
Of course, the MPAA still isn't getting this lesson. It's doubling down, which is why the BMG v. Cox case is so important to watch. Even before the six strikes plan went into effect, the legacy entertainment industry admitted that the real goal was to force ISPs to disconnect users. They planned to lump the six strikes plan in with a total misinterpretation of the DMCA to incorrectly argue that the DMCA actually requires ISPs to kick users off their service.
This reading is plainly wrong from what was in the DMCA and the negotiations around the DMCA. The law does require a policy to terminate "repeat infringers" but that was for online services (like a YouTube or a blog hosting company) and not for access providers. Unfortunately, in the Cox case, the judge seemed to get hung up on some unfortunate emails and a bizarre lack of understanding about how important an internet connection is for many people today, and ruled that ISPs do have to kick people off the internet.
That case is now on appeal, and basically all of the usual suspects (on each side) have been filing amicus briefs to push the 4th Circuit one way or the other. But a decision on that should be coming in the not too distant future, and that's going to be super important. If BMG's win is upheld, then it may be seen as a requirement for ISPs to not just put in place their own three- to six-strikes type plan, but that it would need to kick people off the internet based on such accusations (not convictions) of infringement.
And none of that will make people buy a product they don't want.
The MPAA has had a couple of decades to stop attacking its biggest fans as criminals and to actually focus on providing them what they want. And it keeps on failing to just focus on that. Instead, it keeps overreacting to piracy and getting infatuated with the idea that it must break the internet. The death of the official six strikes plan was inevitable. It was a dumb plan from the start. But the real issue here is what will happen in court. Will the court uphold a dangerous plan that will lead to innocent people being kicked completely off the internet? Or will it recognize that maybe, just maybe, Hollywood's focus on control shouldn't ruin people's lives?