BY KARL BODE
We’re getting close to the two-year anniversary of the Center for Copyright Information’s (CCI) “six strikes” anti-piracy regime. The program, with cooperation from the biggest ISPs, involves forwarding on copyright infringement notices to consumers and punishing users via a “graduated response” program. Said responses vary by ISP but can include a user being temporarily locked behind a walled garden filter until they acknowledge receipt of one-sided “educational” materials, or having your connection throttled temporarily until you admit you’ve been naughty. If innocent, you have to pay a $35 fine to defend yourself.
While the program might seem effective in scaring little Billy straight once his parents notice their connection doesn’t work, it clearly hasn’t had much of a meaningful impact on piracy rates. Unsurprisingly, the entertainment industry argues this is because the measures don’t go far enough; nobody tracks offenders between ISPs, absolutely nothing happens to a user that violates all six strikes (the program simply stops and no more notifications are sent) and most users can simply hide their behavior behind the use of BitTorrent proxy services.
That hasn’t stopped CCI from frequently trumpeting six strikes as a smashing success, often using unreliable, contradictory evidence (when it can be bothered to show evidence at all) to support their argument that forcing ISPs into the role of content nannies is a great idea. Privately however, newly leaked MPAA documents suggest the entertainment industry isn’t so sure six strikes is doing much of anything.
The leaked documents show the program isn’t having quite the impact the MPAA would like, though again, unsurprisingly, the MPAA believes that’s only because the program isn’t big enough yet. While there’s the occasional attempt to suggest that offenders change their ways after receiving notices, the document then proceeds to note the MPAA actually has no idea if people change their behavior, since it’s possible they switched ISPs or are hiding their behavior via BitTorrent proxy services:
“The U.S. system is “not yet at scale” or operating with “enough education support” according to the MPAA. As a result the CAS has not made an “impact on the overall [piracy] landscape…“No current information as to the behavior of users who appear to stop P2P infringement – do not know whether [they are] migrating to other pirate systems or to lawful services,” the statement reads.”
The MPAA’s solution to this problem? Make Six Strikes bigger, bolder and thereby worse:
“Attainability as to existing programs boils down to whether ISPs will agree (a) to expand scale to levels that might impact overall P2P piracy, and (b) to enhance remedial measures so as to improve efficacy,” the MPAA writes.”
I’ve spoken to execs at two large ISPs who have admitted privately they know most pirates have simply started using proxy services, but the ISPs are playing along begrudgingly. Already a bit put off by the added paperwork, few are going to be keen on an a voluntary expansion of the program. As such, look for the entertainment industry to lobby heavily to have this year’s rewrite of the Communications Act include numerous new treasures aimed at ISP compliance of a plan expansion. Perhaps after that we can proceed to banning the use of VPNs and proxies entirely for the good of the nation?