Copyright enforcement is a big headache.
It's a big headache for the media industry as it's a money-losing
proposition. It's a big headache for the U.S. Senate who had nearly
10 percent of their collective campaign expenses paid by media lobbyists.
It seems neither the federal government or big
media wants to pay themselves for the massive
cost of copyright enforcement, so they've cooked up a clever plan -- force
internet service providers to become copyright cops and police the internet.
I. Welcome to New America, Where ISPs are
Under the new "six
strikes" plan, AT&T, Inc. (T),
Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ), Comcast
Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC),
and Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC)
vow to protect customers’ privacy, but will forward messages they receive about
infringing IPs to subscribers. After five or six of these
"strikes", subscribers may face penalties, such as "temporary
reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the
subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to
some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP
may deem necessary to help resolve the matter."
The plan was inspired by similar plans proposed in
other nations (most of which didn't pass) .
The plan is reportedly the work of several
powerful players, led by the Obama administration. New York Governor
Andrew Cuomo (D) is also thought to have played a key role in bringing the
parties together for talks.
Victoria Espinel, US Intellectual Property
Enforcement Coordinator, cheers the plan
commenting, "The joining of Internet service providers and entertainment
companies in a cooperative effort to combat online infringement can further
this goal [of supporting jobs and exports] and we commend them for reaching
this agreement. We believe it will have a significant impact on reducing online
She says conscripting ISPs to act as copyright
police is the key to "win the future".
II. Big Media Gets What It Paid For
There's little secret that it's also the key to
"win the future [election]" for many politicians. Media
lobbyists have been among the most generous in terms of campaign contributions,
and contributions, of course, typically equal election in federal politics.
Of course, without results, media's generous sponsorship of the elected
officials (which includes 10 percent of all active Senators' estimated campaign
costs) might dry up.
While media lobbyists wish the U.S. government
to imprison filesharers, the International Federation of the Phonographic
Industry indicates it still feels got what it paid for though. In a
statement, the organization writes, "[This] agreement also sends an
important signal internationally. It adds to the momentum already created by
initiatives such as graduated response and blocking of infringing websites in
other countries, and is the latest mark of recognition that ISP cooperation is
the most effective way of addressing online piracy."
The question of how the ISPs will enforce the plan
is a tricky one, though. As monitoring users and contacting them will
likely be expensive, many believe ISPs will turn to third parties to police
their connections. However, that brings questions about possible
data loss or abuse of fair use content.
And of course not all ISPs are onboard with the
plan. And if the copyright holders push to hard there's no telling if
some of the supporting ISPs will rebel.
That said the White House reportedly is heavily
leveraging the threat of legislation to coerce the ISPs into begrudgingly
sticking to the policing scheme. After all, if the free market isn't
willing to do it on its own, the Obama administration would be more than happy
to force them to via federal mandate.