Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Center for Copyright Information: An Anti-piracy Measure That Makes Sense - San Francisco News - The Snitch - Print Version

About seven years ago, I read something online about a then-recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Overcome with the desire to watch the episode for myself, but without a subscription to HBO, I fired up LimeWire, the now-defunct file-sharing software, and quickly found the episode I wanted.

An hour later, I had my file and was just starting to watch the show when I got an e-mail from my ISP. It warned me that the people at HBO had noticed my illicit activity and that if I continued downloading copyrighted material, I might have to find a new ISP. I was shocked by how quickly I had been busted, and I was -- as intended -- scared off of downloading anything else, particularly anything produced by HBO or any other pay channel.

This is why I think that a new initiative -- the Center for Copyright Information -- might be effective. It will scare off people like me: casual downloaders

I've never been much of a pirate. I've illicitly downloaded music, but generally only stuff that's not available through legitimate channels like iTunes -- including live cuts, bootlegs, or back-catalog tunes that aren't otherwise available. My default option is always to pay for my media -- not only because it's the right thing to do, but because it's usually easier, faster, and safer. I really don't like patronizing skeevy operators like Pirate Bay, with their horrible, lowbrow porn advertisers. Illicitly downloaded songs and movies are often of substandard quality. It's usually worth it to just pay for them.

I took HBO's warning more seriously than I would have taken a warning from, say, NBC for downloading an advertising-sponsored show, because downloading a pay-TV show seemed more like theft to me.

Yes, this is an entirely insensible set of "ethics." We shouldn't download anything, ever, when doing so violates copyright. But such squishy ethical standards are the norm online, and the CCI, somewhat refreshingly, seems to recognize that.

The idea behind the CCI, which will officially launch this summer, is to warn downloaders -- gently at first, and more harshly with each iteration. Upon the sixth warning, the ISP can suspend service. Customers can appeal through an arbitration service.

There is some controversy about the details, and understandable worries that the media companies represented by the MPAA and RIAA, which are co-sponsors, will find ways to work around the safeguards that are incorporated into the initiative. But ISPs are also co-sponsors, and their presence should help forestall any such problems. They don't want to lose customers to trumped up charges of piracy by overzealous copyright owners. Also, the CCI announced this week that several privacy and "cyber rights" advocates will sit on its advisory board.

In general, though, the CCI seems like a reasonable approach. Not that it's a cure-all. Far from it: It is but one approach. It won't stop many hardcore downloaders, who have at their disposal various technological means for masking their activities. The CCI's warnings are aimed at situational or occasional downloaders like me, who are more likely to be nudged -- or scared -- into doing the right thing.

They're also aimed at customers who might not know that their Internet account is being used for piracy -- by wifi hijackers, by their children, or by their layabout brother-in-law who pirates "American Pie" movies rather than looking for a job or an apartment.

Dan Mitchell has written for Fortune, the New York Times, Slate, Wired, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, and many others.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly


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  • What the heck, stealing is stealing sure getting Pirated downlands is cheap, but like he said takes long and is unsafe. Spend your money and help the economy. Help keep jobs and maybe make some. Just saying.

  • This guy's story is a pack of lies. There's NO WAY that an ISP can react instantly to a download that they feel is "illegal", that's a downright lie and Limewire is not "defunct": the website Limewire was shut down and you can no longer get the Limewire software from that website but the software is still widely available on the web and my Limewire client has been chugging along handling hundreds of downloads and uploads every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the 2 years since Limewire's website was shuttered.  Dan Mitchell is TOTALLY discredited.  Mark Montgomery  NYC, NY  boboberg@nyc.rr.com

  •  So because one part is wrong, every other argument is wrong too.

    Must have hit you in a soft spot...

  • emegeve 2 months ago

    This article is bullshit. Shame on you, "journalist"...

  • TheBuzzSaw 2 months ago

    Yes, but there is a key ingredient missing from this story. I see no indication that Dan went on to purchase an HBO subscription. In other words, HBO is spending money to prevent unapproved copying (not stealing), but that does not magically translate into increased revenue. At best, it scares off potential fans of the show. I'm not implying this makes piracy acceptable, but from a content creator's perspective, it's a fool's errand. We can argue all day about whether pirates should be thrown into the slammer, but it does nothing to monetize the content. It also doesn't help that the punishment is always disproportionate to the crime.

  • Reader beware - there is absolutely no way an ISP can react that fast, especially to a user who downloads illegal material once in a blue moon!  Your article has been discredited from that pont.

  • is important to respect the copyrights, but I find it an abuse by your internet service andHBO, are committing a crime to download an episode that is protected but violent your Internet privacy!

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