Copyright enforcement: Will ISPs beat Fair Use to death with infringement clubs?

In the USA, July Fourth is a time for our nation to celebrate independence and citizens' freedoms. But America's birthday celebration this year immediately follows the nixing of freedom on July 1, the type of six-strike, wicked, anti-freedom seed born from the likes of evil twins SOPA and PIPA. Someone should probably get busy writing the eulogy as the death of Fair Use rights will probably follow soon afterwards, since the RIAA and MPAA will be only too happy to beat it to death and call it piracy.

"Graduated Response" is the love-child spawned by the MPAA and the RIAA, but instead of targeting websites like SOPA, it targets individual users. Major ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and others will flag their customers for copyright violations. While RIAA mouthpiece Cary Sherman alleged, each ISP has to do it differently and develop their infrastructure for automating the system on their network, some might call those lies, damn lies. If an ISP isn't already in bed with the MPAA or RIAA, and doesn't kowtow to antipiracy measures, then the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) will turn up the heat.

You will be allowed six strikes, alleged copyright infringement violations, before your ISP terminates your account. Or perhaps you will terminate it after ISP "Mitigation Measures" like being throttled down to the speed of frosty molasses on a cold winter day. Ah but the real problem is the Copyright Alert System (CAS) in which "content owners (represented by MPAA and RIAA) will notify a participating ISP when they believe their copyrights are being misused online by a specific computer (identified by its Internet Protocol ('IP') address which indicates the connection to the Internet)." 

But the EFF asked  if this was education or propaganda? The burden of copyright infringement proof should be on content owners, but the "burden-shift violates our traditional procedural due process norms and is based on the presumed reliability of infringement-detection systems that subscribers haven't vetted and to which they cannot object."

This is not just directed at BitTorrent or other P2P users pirating movies, TV shows, or music; it could be anything downloaded, uploaded or posted that the CCI (MPAA or RIAA) considers copyrighted content . . . Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pininterest, or you name it. It's about accusation, not proof. As EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz said, "A court hasn't spoken. It sort of puts the ISPs in the position of being a judge."

"CCI's six-member board of directors, which holds all the power, includes only representatives from the entertainment companies and ISPs," CNET noted. The CCI named an "advisory board" with technology and privacy advocates in "an attempt by the entertainment companies to shield graduated response from criticism." Those advocates include Jerry Berman, chairman of the Internet Education Foundation and founder of the Center for Democracy and Technology; Marsali Hancock, president of iKeepSafe.org; Jules Polenetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum; and Gigi Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge.

No, I'm not suggesting you go pirate things, only that any ISP policing for Hollywood is ripe for abuse. It's anti-American when guilty-until-proven-innocent insanity rules the game and the burden of proof is on users. It's unknown if ISP copyright infringement education will include instructions about Fair Use. YouTube currently has a "copyright school," but this video is "educating" users on what YouTube will not tell you.

So pushback against your ISP acting like Hollywood's copyright cop if you are accused of baseless copyright infringement, or better yet change ISP providers if yours is supporting the Six Strike "Graduated Response" measure. For now, here's an "educational" cyberlaw video from Stanford Law School while America is still "free" and Fair Use has not yet been beaten to death by the infringement club.

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