‘Six Strikes’ Potentially Dead, ISPs Continue To Threaten Pirates With Disconnection


Download (13)Following the demise of the woefully ineffective anti-piracy ‘six-strikes’ policy, major telecom companies like Verizon, Comcast, and TWC are continuing to threatening users with disconnection based on what Techdirt Karl Bodi argues is flimsy six-strike era evidence.

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Guest post by Karl Bode from Techdirt

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.

Images (9)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.