I’ve been following the RIAA’s recent announcements that it will no longer be suing individuals, but rather working with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to enforce a “three strikes your without” campaign. As David Kravets notes on here:
The RIAA has sued more than 30,000 individuals the past few years, and has settled most of the cases out of court for a few thousand dollars. Under the RIAA’s new strategy, internet service providers will notify (.pdf) alleged copyright infringers detected by the RIAA that they need to cease their alleged infringement of the industry’s music. Three-time offenders face losing internet access.
I think this new approach has far greater and even more frightening implications for just about everybody on the internet. And while the RIAA has been targeting high school and college students as part of their recent strategy, this new approach basically goes to the source of connectivity and threatens everyone’s internet access through an attempt to circumnavigate the courts by framing a friendly, fascist arrangement between ISPs and media interests groups.
Let’s think about the implications of this for a second, as quoted above, “alleged copyright infringers detected by the RIAA that they need to cease their alleged infringement.” One of the key things to think about here is that the detection for files is anything but a science, as the study “Tracking the Trackers” at the University of Washington found earlier this year when examining the take down notices sent to students who were “allegedly” sharing files via bitTorrent. Little is known about the actual methods these anti-piracy companies are using for detecting alleged violations. According to the University of Washington study, “practically any internet user an be framed for copyright infringement today.” So, as the RIAA changes their strategy to directly work with ISPs, the issue of their methodology and ability to establish what may confirm an “infringement” will become even more pressing given they are threatening to take away your internet after the third offense. Are they going to be transparent about this in their new
In fact, I think the RIAA may be savvy in their new approach because, let’s face it, by targeting students they weren’t really winning any popularity contests. Add to that the fact that they were forcing already strapped educational institutions to be the go-between, which sometimes (though not often enough) resulted in a certain amount of collective awareness about students rights and their recourse through the law. Well, seems like any hope, however meager, to fight the continued attacks of these through some kind of collective action against media interest groups (which, by the way, don’t understand the internet) will soon be gone. This is no longer a negotiation between university IT organizations and students (which in many regards is a good thing for their relationship), but rather the more isolated and alienating struggle between an individual and their internet provider.
Needles to say, the individual who is up against a wealthy and powerful collection of interests is at a greater disadvantage then when this process was mediated through a university. And chances are that most people won’t know their rights or ask the the basic questions: How do you know I’m sharing files? How can you prove it was me? And what happened to the basic levels of privacy a service provider should offer its customers?
Moreover, does this mean a university or college will have to still mediate these same issues through their ISP rather than directly through the RIAA. Will the university lose it’s internet after three offenses when this new approach goes into effect 😉
I don’t know, a part of me is glad to see it moved away from the institutional mediation of copyright infringement at universities and the like, but another part of me is even more frightened at the new strategy which will potentially place huge, bureaucratic corporations against individuals, threatening them with their internet lifeline over allegations that none of us really know how they are technically establishing. What it all moves towards is not simply the fear of sharing copyrighted files via the internet, but more broadly the fear of sharing on the internet period for fear of losing this “corporate sponsored right.” This is not necessarily an attack on copyright infringement, but rather a war against the mentality of sharing more generally on the internet when it comes to media. It’s this core value of US corporate capitalism against sharing (which is premised on accumulation and greed) that has fucked our economy up so thoroughly these days. It’s nice to see that tradition continued though powerful interest groups like the RIAA, who shamelessly place all of us under their gilded boot by going to the root of connectivity. Why don’t they just ask for a bailout and be done with the whole thing? Better yet, given our recent move towards socialism, isn’t it time we socialized the ISPs?