Random scribblings on software, technology, language, and society.

The Copyright Alert System

Today, has reported [1] that a “Copyright Alert System” is going to be implemented in the United States within this year, after it has been previously negotiated in secrecy and delayed multiple times.
The Center for Copyright Information explains [2] how a 6-stage warning system is used on internet users suspected for copyright infringement. In early stages, these “alerts” will merely be notifications. Subsequent alerts force the user to watch “educational videos” and confirm their offences before regaining access to their internet subscription. Ultimately, later stages might reduce internet speed or lead up to a complete disconnection of the subscriber.

Holy shit. I can’t even begin to list the aspects of this radical agenda making me rage.
One reason these “laws” appear so ridiculous on a first glace might be the tendency to treat grown up citizens like little children. The regulations give the impression that Copyright holders could domineer over internet users at will, without the latter having any right to objection. A six-strike policy might resemble the educational ideas of a parent for their teenage kid – but it surely does not conform to a constitutional state – which is governed by law. Let me elaborate.

The era of a Corporatocracy
The Oxford dictionary lists corporatocracy as “political system [that] is controlled by corporations or corporate interests.” [3]. Arguably, we have long entered this era. The fact that life-affecting negotiations (such as the way we use the internet) are done by private organisations makes evident this shift in power. The participating parties, copyright holders and ISPs, obviously have no inclination to the will of the people. These regulations are discussed secretly, to leave the government an even smaller opening to confirm their legitimacy. A constitutional democracy passes laws for the benefit of all people, yet regulations regarding copyright issues are motivated by financial profit of large corporations, and are ultimately the result of lobbyism. Movements like Stop-ACTA [4] or SOPA-Strike [5] demonstrate clearly that the direction we are heading is definitely not the will of the people, and yet we have to fight an exhaustive crusade against the will of corporations.

My ISP, Judge Dredd of the Internet
The root of the problematics with filesharing is the understanding of it as a criminal act. If you steal a car, you have violated a law and are guilty of a crime. It is important to note, that even though you have a dispute with the owner of the car, it is ultimately the state which convicts and subsequently punishes you. In case of the six-strike agenda on the other hand, there is no legal system serving justice. It is a private company which charges, convicts and executes their own punishment; and this concept of justice is really skewed. Laws are meant to be definite: You either violate it, or you are innocent. Furthermore the presumption of innocence guarantees that there must be evidence for being liable to prosecution. The six levels of alarms seem to make an excuse for the lack of proper evidence by introducing multiple levels of ‘guiltiness’. An Internet Service Provider should not turn into the judge, the jury and the executioner of copyright infringements.

Thoughtcrime is doubleplusungood.
The term that angered me the most in the press statement was clearly “educational video”. Internet users are meant to be “educated” into not being filesharers. In my books, education is the conveyance of factual knowledge. In case of an anti-piracy video however, it is the advocation of a certain belief that is forced upon the masses. Images of several dystopian movies can come into mind, in which an overpowering state uses subliminal messages to control its people. This is exactly what would become reality: Brainwashing people into an understanding of rightfulness that suits the capitalist rulers. I very much apologize for such an exaggerated position, but fail to describe the issue differently than a violation of the Freedom of Thought.

Lastly, there are tons of technical difficulties, for instance the issue of multiple users behind a single NAT [6].

The technical implementation of the six-strike ‘punishments’ which ISPs should be permitted to impose at will, is a whole different topic for discussion.

The bottom line of this is, that the six-strike regulation must not pass in the United States. Even not living in the US, a step in this direction would affect me like any internet user on a global scale. I hope that US citizens soon react with call-to-arms offensives to write their congressmen.

I, for one, refuse to welcome our new corporate overlords.


2 responses to “The Copyright Alert System

  1. pyfg September 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Here’s a nice recap of the history of copyright law:

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