Don’t Steal, How Hard Is That?

Obeying the laws of the land is not difficult. Most are dumbed down to the lowest common denominator so that doing what the law requires is pretty effortless. The fear of jail or taking money away from you (in the form of fines) is typically sufficient in garnering compliance. Most habitual offenders count on “the odds” for motivation, they have to get from point A to B, speeding gives them extra time (the reward) and the odds of getting caught (the hammer) are slim. When a speeder or reckless driver blows by me, I don’t get indignant, I just get out of their way, knowing that habitual offenders always get theirs in the end.

The same dynamic works for internet thieves. Pirating tunes or movies is theft, no rationalizing or equivocating, it is stealing plain and simple. The excuse that everyone does it, which is wrong, or that those big rich music companies expect us small timers to skim off the top, that is why they charge so much for CD’s, is mere conscious massaging to mitigate culpability. But soon, more eyes may be watching your internet activities:

Internet users who share pirated movies and music online may soon be getting an unpleasant surprise: Warnings from their cable and phone providers that detail alleged copyright infringement and threaten to slow their Web connections if they don’t stop.

The new so-called Copyright Alert System was created by a coalition of major film studios, record labels and Internet-service providers, who agreed to guidelines for identifying and notifying Web users who violate copyrights.

Among the ISPs that have pledged to implement the new policy are Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

The cooperation between media and technology companies represents a shift in a relationship that had been a contentious one. Media companies have accused ISPs and computer makers of turning a blind eye when people used technology to make illegal copies of songs and movies. But as illegal movie downloaders started to strain their networks ISPs grew more willing to clamp down.

Figures, ISP’s only care about legalities when their business is being effected. Of course, if the did away with the “all you can eat” concept and went to metered plans like what most phone companies do, then even downloading stolen goods would not be bothersome to them.

On it’s face, this does not appear all the odious to me, and a possible revenue stream for the government (more on that later), but as usual, the devil is in the details. First off, nobody likes being spied on, I like to watch naked midget wrestling but do not care to have that in the public purview. Although if I understand the procedure correctly my proclivities for sans clothed diminutive sized grabbing should still be safe:

Contractors working for the RIAA and its film-industry counterpart, the Motion Picture Association of America, will use software to monitor file-sharing services like BitTorrent. When they find a user offering a copyrighted movie or song for others to download, they will send the user’s ISP a notice that includes the person’s Internet address and other details, including information about the file that’s being offered.

Each time a user is caught offering copyrighted material, that user will get an increasingly strident warning from his ISP. After four such written warnings, the user’s Internet connection might be slowed. Suspected repeat offenders might also be redirected to an educational webpage about copyrights.

Gee, rap my knuckles with a ruler, these guys mean business. For all the moralizing about fighting thievery, this new policy does nothing really to any habitual offender, it offers no real stick, no disruption of service, no reporting to authorities, just a threat of being redirected to an educational web page.

The problem is that casual offenders see nothing happening to habitual offenders so there is no incentive to do the right thing. Having the big media companies suing the offenders is also nuts, too costly, and very rarely would they recoup their legal fees for the process. Since ISP’s will now have a list of those offenders and all the details (dates, times, titles of pirated movies, and bandwidth usage) how about some regulatory arm of whatever government agency that monitors this stuff sending the offenders a ticket in the mail, say for a hundred bucks, for theft of proprietary property. That would get people’s attention. Much like what cities do in installing red light cameras at busy intersections in an attempt to generate revenue (not that I’m for this practice, mind you, but it does happen). All this talk about the deficit and the need to bring in more money, fine those people. They know they should not be doing it, let’s bring some consequences into the mix.

So, is this more government intrusion that everyone rails about? Is this Copyright Alert System a good or bad idea? What about bringing some justice to those that thieve proprietary property over the internet, should anything happen to them? I know less about the intricacies of the internet and how it works then most but clearly understand that just because you can do something does mean that you should or that there are not legal ramifications for that act.

Comments are closed.

  1. Kimpost

    This is actually worse than gigantic government intrusions. This is privatizing police work. RIAA (and other parts of the industry), are the ones ultimately deciding on people’s Internet connections. They’ve got all the powers, while the ordinary user has none. And the regular user won’t likely ever take RIAA to court, because they can’t afford it.

    Stealing copyrighted material is certainly not right, but they need to find other ways, in my opinion. This is Bidens pet project, and US officials are pushing hard all over the world trying to get these kinds of regulations into place everywhere. It needs to stop, not today, but yesterday.

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  2. InsipiD

    You found something we can agree on. I think this kind of stuff is absurd and intrusive, nevermind that you’re guilty until proven innocent.

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  3. Hal_10000

    The problem is that these guys have a very expansive definition of copyright violation with zero concept of “fair use”. They seriously want to go after people for using copyrighted music in free Youtube videos. I do not trust the RIAA as far as I could comfortably fart a bison. If they have this power, it will be abused.

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  4. richtaylor365 *

    I’m inclined to agree that for the average user (aside from exercising a valid search warrant to monitor internet activity of a suspected terrorist) any prying eyes into web activity is unwanted, but:

    This is privatizing police work

    No, the RIAA would only be doing the monitoring (or their agents), they would then alert the ISP who would pass on the information to whatever enforcement agency (not the RIAA) that would have the power to fine abusers.

    Since the “prying eyes” would be limited to users of obvious illegal means of pirating songs and movies (BitTorrent and other peer to peer sites) the legal users would be left alone and remain anonymous but those using an illegal product would be targeted.

    For the sake of argument, what is the difference between what they want to do here and say your local law enforcement agency hanging out at flea markets checking for stolen property since these are the environments where stolen property is more apt to be found?

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  5. Kimpost

    RIAA provides the ISP with evidence of your downloads (often print screen images). The ISP then uses the information to send out warnings. If you don’t comply you will get “sentenced”, by reduced Internet speed, or by an outright ban (that’s not entirely clear yet). You’ll supposedly be be able to fight such a ban, but a user against a ISP and RIAA? Good luck with that…

    I prefer proper police work, done by actual police (not private parties). And real courts doing the sentencing. This is not like being banned from a bar. It’s infrastructure. Sometimes you don’t have more than one ISP to chose from.

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  6. TxAg94

    Perhaps the feeling you’re being watched (having your “privacy” violated) will be the motivation to do the right thing you speak of up top. Not saying it’s right but finding the stick or carrot seems to be the difficulty.

    I have no problem with this because i don’t steal music or videos. I also see that it is something you will volunteer to be subjected to by signing a check to the ISP every month.

    I find it odd, too, the folks saying the police should be handling this. Are those the same police who shouldn’t be allowed to handle airline security or drug policy>

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  7. FPrefect89

    The interesting thing is using an encrypted torrent. I started using uTorrent because of this. When I would download, or I should say attempt to download a Linux distro using BitTorrent, Comcast in their infinite wisdom would, with their deep packet inspection, stop the download. They did this to all torrent traffic, legal or not. I think using encrypted torrent packets will slow this down somewhat, although if you are listed in the tracker, they will know something is up.

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  8. Kimpost

    Why shouldn’t the police (or similar) be the ones handling airport security or drug policy (the law enforcement part of it)? My main objection is that I don’t like giving police and judicial powers to private enterprises.

    Here’s what I would be OK with.

    1. RIAA reports a suspected copyright violation to the police.
    2. The police checks it out. If the suspicion is valid, they contact a judge to get a search warrant.
    3. With the warrant they get the address, and can get their hands on the computer.
    4. They check the computer for evidence.
    5. If the evidence is there – prosecute, if it’s not – apologize and move on.

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  9. JimK

    Not only am I encrypted, I’m using Peerblock, a maintained and better version of PeerGuardian.

    Not advocating violating copyright. Just saying, fuck anyone who wants to sniff my packets.

    Also saw some support for capped & tiered services. #1 reason that supporting that idea is stupid? NETFLIX. Add to that Amazon’s free streaming to Prime members, the various free and paid streaming services, and it’d be VERY easy to bump up against even the Comcast 250GB cap in a month. I streamed the entirety of the new run of Doctor Who’s off Netflix, in HD, in just under 2 months. That’s a crapload of data. Netflix says it’s about 1GB per hour of video for the 720P files. All the Who on Netflix is about 71-72 hours. If I watched just 4 hours of streaming TV per day, I’d be up against my cap with no other internet usage at all.

    Tiered services, priority traffic, throttling…it’s all bullshit and it’s all about someone else controlling how you consume data so they can train you do do with less and make providing the service more profitable for them. The violations of copyright are a completely separate issue and should never be lumped in with discussions about neutrality, traffic prioritizing et. al.

    BTW: There is still a way to pirate things that no one can EVER stop, and it’s not Bittorrent. So no matter what these jagoffs do, pirates gonna pirate. Period. It will never, EVER stop. It can’t be stopped. Every dollar spent fighting piracy would be better spent making *paying* for content the easier and least onerous means of acquiring content.

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  10. Hal_10000

    Agree with this a lot. The thing that itunes figured out was that the best way to fight piracy is to give people a cheap legitimate channel. Now Amazon, netflix and apple are makes tons of money off of it.

    OT, but did you ever warm up to Matt Smith?

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  11. Kimpost

    Every dollar spent fighting piracy would be better spent making *paying* for content the easier and least onerous means of acquiring content.


    And the industry needs to understand that the world is global now (Swedes spam American blogs dammit). Making it impossible for us to get content, is a losing strategy. I can’t get Netflix or Hulu here (without proxies), because the industry has decided to sell rights regionally – on a global market. Idiotic is what it is. Buy import BR? Sure, I do that, but the industry doesn’t like that either, which is demonstrated by region coding.

    Pirating is wrong, but it isn’t surprising that it is going on. I would gladly pay for a decent services providing me with music, TV and film. I already pay for Spotify (music), but there are no viable alternatives for TV and film. There are a couple of Swedish rental sites, but the content is old, and the quality sucks.

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  12. JimK

    OT, but did you ever warm up to Matt Smith?

    Ish. I don’t wish him dead, and I even like him sometimes. I’ve put off watching Almost People though. Decided to catch up with Torchwood first.

    Thing about Smith is, he’s playing it colder. And I get it, I totally understand that he’s trying to forget what came before and be a different man, etc. But periodically I could use some good old Tennant-style melodrama from him. And maybe a little of the danger Eccleston brought to it. He’s too goody-nicey, goofy-bow-tie-y when the scene really needs someone to chew up the scenery.

    He’s pretty good at the wry Brit comedy parts though. He makes me laugh, which is hard after seeing Tennant knock every funny line written for him out of the park.

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  13. Miguelito

    Every dollar spent fighting piracy would be better spent making *paying* for content the easier and least onerous means of acquiring content.

    Yeah I don’t pirate movies and music, though I have downloaded some torrents of tv shows that they simply haven’t put out on disc. I’d happily pay If they’d release it. I’ve bought quite a lot of seasons of shows on iTunes in the last few years.

    And sadly, This is fairly accurate

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  14. hist_ed

    So, if a landlord becomes aware that a tenent is selling heroin to gradeschoolers out of their apartment, you would be opposed to the landlord evicting them because it’s the police’s job to crack down on drug dealers?

    I prefer proper police work, done by actual police (not private parties). And real courts doing the sentencing. This is not like being banned from a bar. It’s housing. Sometimes you don’t have more than one subsidized apartment to chose from.

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  15. Kimpost

    If you as a landlord have nothing more than a hunch, or if another dealer just told you he was dealer, then I would say that you shouldn’t just evict the tenent. Call the cops.

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  16. FPrefect89

    When they make it easier to to the right thing, it makes them a crapton of money. Just as you pointed out with NetFlix, Amazon, iTunes.

    I am so with you on the caps as well. There is absolutely no reason for them. I have had this discussion with my brother-in-law who works for a cable company doing their data services. He says there is a problem with it, but he can get over the hump that I am paying for a (insert bandwidth here) pipe to me. Just because I am filling it all the time, does not cost the provider more. It is just a nice way for the providers to get more money, bottom line.

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