updated 10:05 am EDT, Thu June 23, 2011
ISPs may take graduated response under RIAA heat
American Internet service providers were reported late Wednesday as near giving into pressure from the MPAA and RIAA into adopting a graduated response system to alleged piracy. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others are believed to be near deals that could be made public in July that would toughen responses with each successive discovery. The White House as well as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association were claimed by CNET to have helped broker the deal.
The approach would be less extreme than the French three-strikes law, where a court has the authority to ban a user from the Internet, but would follow a similar pattern. Those accused of infringing would first get written copyright alerts with follow-ups should they ignore the warnings. Eventually, an ISP would have to take one of several possible actions, including limiting users to the 200 most popular Internet sites, speed throttling, or a mandatory copyright 'education' program.
To offset the burden, copyright holders would share some of the expenses.
Such plans have drawn criticism and threatened legal action. Internet providers have usually resisted such measures and would risk losing their safe harbor principles, or the arguments that they can't be punished for acts committed on their networks without their clear knowledge. The system would theoretically invite the MPAA or RIAA to sue if they thought an ISP ignored an instance of piracy.
The approach also deliberately ignores the authenticity of the claims. Known instances have emerged of Internet users being falsely accused of piracy or other crimes, either because they ran unprotected Wi-Fi access points or because a child was downloading bootlegged material that had been kept secret. If the new proposal is true as-is, it wouldn't make a distinction between individual people using an account and wouldn't give them a recourse if they were genuinely innocent.
Crtitics have noted that the Obama administration has been at times uncomfortably close to the traditional music and movie industries and has tried to keep controversial trade deals like the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) a secret knowing that the public at large would object to harsh anti-piracy measures contained inside.