Update Feb 2013: Welp, it’s a go! The six strike illegal downloading system went into effect at the end of February 2013.
Update Nov 2012: Due to issues associated with Hurricane Sandy, implementation of the “six strike” anti-piracy program, which is intended to thwart illegal downloading, is delayed until 2013.
European countries love illegal downloading laws. Most use a three-strike system, meaning users get two piracy warnings before being slapped with sanctions. In Europe, if a person is caught in the act after two warnings, the punishment is usually suspension of Internet service for up to a year.
Since the US justice system is based on the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ premise, laws like the EU’s three-strike method are considered unconstitutional by many. The argument being that people are stripped of rights without first being found guilty of an actual crime.
But the times, they are a’changing.
Several American ISPs announced that they will employ measures that help copyright holders hang on to their intellectual property. Similar to their European cousins, the Americans are going with a ‘six strike’ policy. This means American Internet users will be given five progressively severe warnings before suffering more serious consequences. These measures are strictly optional for Internet providers, but it is estimated that around seventy-five percent of American citizens will be affected by the new rules.
How Will The Six Strike Illegal Downloading Warning System Work?
Most people know the consequences for pirating content on the Internet. The warning at the beginning of movies makes clear the punishment: Up to Ten Years in “The Clink” and Hundreds of Thousands in Fines. Unfortunately for copyright holders, the strike system has done little to stymie the flow of piracy in Europe.
It isn’t yet known what will happen to a person after their fifth ‘strike’ for downloading pirated content. In fact, there isn’t even a standardized approach for the five warnings before the dooms-day sixth strike.
The Center for Copyright Information (CCI), an organization created by the movie and recording industries, is working in conjunction with the nation’s ISPs. They haven’t, however, been able to provide many details on the potential consequences.
The Executive Director of the CCI said the five warnings leading up to the sixth strike would be educational tools. Meaning someone surfing the web may have to read a warning about possible consequences or watch a video related to online piracy, before continuing Internet use. It’s not yet known what punishments a sixth strike would trigger, but many ISPs are hesitant to cut off a person’s service — let’s face it, who wants to lose customers?
Is Illegal Downloading Really That Big Of A Problem?
The new measures will do little to thwart online piracy. Heck, it’s barely made a difference in France and other EU nations. Regardless, the important question to keep asking should be: is piracy really that big of a problem? Sure, the entertainment industry wants their potential lost revenue, but is it really potential lost revenue or just a 21st century way of entertainment consumption – screen first and buy what you like? And if so, is the latter a successful business model? If you believe this piracy math, then your answer is probably “yes, piracy is good for the entertainment economy.”
Nevertheless, according to the law, illegal downloading is against the law. There ain’t no getting around that solid fact. So, who knows, maybe this new system won’t do much to stop the hard-core pirates, but it could dissuade a curious teen from getting into the habit in the first place. Only time and test lawsuits will tell.
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