Six Strikes for Illegal Downloading – Not Actually That Bad

Last week, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Cablevision and AT&T began the implementation of a “six strike system” to counter the illegal downloading/uploading (D/U) of copyrighted materials; namely movies and music. This sounds like a “six strikes and you’re out” kind of deal, but it’s not as dire as that. This approach focuses on “educating” and encouraging legal behavior. It actually makes me believe that entities such as the much lambasted RIAA and Hollywood might have realized that they can’t realistically eradicate pirating, but they can reduce it. You can find a basic explanation of what these six strikes are at the bottom.

Copyright holders find suspect downloaders/uploaders by leafing through the internet for IP addresses that are active on P2P (peer-to-peer) networks and D/U their copyrighted materials. Then, they send the IP address to the correlating ISP who can then start warning you to stop. Don’t worry, your identity won’t be revealed to the copyright holders without a court order. Also, unless you D/U all the Oscar winning movies right after the Oscars, or constantly D/U torrents of copyrighted music and movies, it’s pretty unlikely the copyright holders will pick you up. Basically, try not to download the newest, biggest, most popular musics or movies whilst they’re, well, popular. Or at least when they’re out of the public spotlight.

This is a vast upgrade from the harsh style of copyrighted content protection the RIAA used to apply. A very unlucky few were targeted for illegally downloading protected material. They were brought to court and charged absurd penalties for their “crimes.” That approach of making an example out of an arbitrarily chosen few and basically ruining their lives with a lifetime of debt whilst others roamed free was a little unethical; mostly because such tactics are archaic and there are no words in any language on Earth to describe how ineffective they are. Even Eskimos, with their 30 different words for snow, are lost for words.

Here is a basic rundown of the six strikes if a copyright holder and ISP suspect that copyrighted materials have been illegally downloaded from your account:

Strikes 1-2: Your ISP will contact you vie email or other means to alert you that your account has been used for illegally downloading copyrighted material. For these first two alerts, ISPs employ a “innocent until proven guilty” mindset as you might not actually be illegally downloading songs and movies. For example, it might be someone who hacked into your wi-fi. In these alerts, you could be given information on how to secure your computer and wi-fi connection, how to avoid content theft and where you can legally purchase protected content.

Strikes 3-4: You ISP will send you more alerts with a little umph to them. These alerts will require you to acknowledge the alert message (perhaps just pressing the “ok” button) before being able to continue using the internet. Here, ISPs are “making sure” you receive the message and information provided in the first two alert in case, you know, you deleted the email alert by accident etc. It also serves as a reminder that illegally downloading protected content could lead to consequences under the law and published policies.

Strikes 5-6: The ISP may implement “mitigation measures” such as temporarily throttling your internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until you contact your ISP to discuss the matter, being subjected to educational information about copyright and whatever else your ISP feels is necessary to resolve the matter.

So, not so bad then. The consequences are nowhere NEAR as dire as the “scorched earth” tactics previously used by the RIAA. In fact, these new measures might seem quite tame and probably ineffective, but it is this tech blogger’s opinion that they may actually help reduce copyrighted content piracy. Recently, the “you get what you pay for” adage has been most relevant. Pirated material has been extremely low in quality (video/audio) which pretty much ruins the experience. Also, I am feeling more and more that I just don’t want other people’s files, and what may be lurking inside them, on my computer. You can think of a stranger’s computer like a NYC subway car and holding the railings; you’re risking the contraction of the entire microbial life-form dictionary. If not, you’ll at least leave the subway with a film of grease/stickiness/slime on your hands.