Expect Internet users to skirt pending policy
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 14:04
After several popular user-contributed websites like Wikipedia and Reddit participated in the Internet blackout late last year, avid Internet users are undoubtedly aware of the proposed federal anti-piracy bills that fueled the strike. What many may not know is that the industry hasn’t given up the fight just yet.
A new policy set to go into effect on July 12 will authorize several Internet service providers to launch a spying initiative on their customers. The policy will allow network operators to monitor the Internet usage of their customers for piracy activity. Thus far, large companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable have added their names to the list. Local ISPs like Brighthouse Networks have yet to state whether they will be participating in the scheme.
It remains unclear what measures will be taken if users do not heed these warnings, as none of the participating ISPs have agreed to cut off a noncompliant user’s service permanently, according to Tech Spot. It is also reported that hefty fines and restricted web access are among the penalties involved with users that choose to ignore the initial warnings of network operators to cease illegal downloading. With little to act on besides an IP address, service providers may lack enough solid proof to cut off a user’s access entirely.
The fact that ISPs have access to millions of users’ Internet history already echoes an Orwellian vision, so the notion that this tracking policy will solely be used to monitor potential pirating activity is naive and comical.
The policy was approved with the assistance of the President Barack Obama’s State Department. According to CNET.com, “President Obama has said intellectual property is important to the country’s economy and has vowed to step up the fight against piracy and counterfeiting.” It is hard to believe that the State Department and ISPs won’t abuse this policy. The possibility of these groups utilizing loopholes in policy wording to gain other information about users and their Internet history is a valid concern.
Digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation stated its contempt with the policy, proclaiming it lacks transparency. As reported by The Raw Story, the EFF is pushing for assurance that the claims will be investigated by a neutral party. Both the participating ISPs and the content industries have been successful keeping a lid on the implementation of the policy. Despite this accomplishment, explicit information regarding the specifics of how the policy will function are not to be found as of yet, which lends credit to the EFF’s concerns.
With the existence of free programs like Spotify and Pandora, the message the recording industry is attempting to get across is vague and essentially greedy. Bands attempting to keep a fan base in today’s Internet-driven culture would be wise to follow the pattern set by acts like Radiohead and Girl Talk, who have both implemented a “pay-what-you-want” approach to previous album releases.
Admittedly, the number of fans who downloaded it for free surpassed the amount of those who paid. Nevertheless, Radiohead made more profit off of In Rainbows, which fans had the option to download for free, than their previous album Hail to the Thief, according to Rolling Stone.
If the history of the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that websites and users alike will undoubtedly protest and more than likely find a way to skirt the policy’s constraints.