It’s no secret that online piracy threatens multiple industries and discourages creative aspirations worldwide. Some would argue it’s up to major industries that rely on creative talent, such as music and film, to find alternative revenue streams from emerging technologies. But for the big players, the plain solution is to discourage piracy by punishing infringers without censoring and blocking legitimate sites. Lately, this has turned into an international effort and differing solutions have been enacted to mitigate the problem. Let’s examine these different anti-piracy laws:
In the United States, the old policy was for copyright holders to sue regular people who shared material without permission on P2P networks. Litigation got launched against tens of thousands of people; some were wrongfully accused. The new response for copyright holders, which has the support of the Obama Administration and utilizes major internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and TWC, has been dubbed the “graduated response” method to attack piracy. It works like this: copyright holders scour the web looking for infringing activity and report suspect IP addresses found on P2P networks to the major ISPs. The ISPs then give the infringer six warnings — the first four educational, the last two may contain “mitigation measures” at the discretion the ISP. Possible mitigation measures at the ISPs’ disposal: to slow or disable service if the infringing activity does not stop. All in all, this seems fairly reasonable.
France’s new Hadopi law differs slightly. Internet providers provide three warnings to alleged offenders, after which they hand them over to a judge. The judge then decides whether to fine (1,500 euros) or temporarily disconnect the infringer’s internet service. The Hadopi law is interesting, however, because of its scope. Since October, 2010, IP addresses of 18 million file-sharers were documented as suspect infringers. From this list, 900,000 identities were randomly selected, of which 470,000 were sent first-warning emails; 20,000 people received a second warning; only ten got a third warning. It all begs the question: Is tracking 18 million IP addresses worthwhile if only ten people face real consequences?
New Zealand’s enforcement regime has an interesting twist. To compensate ISPs for maintaining a three-warning system similar to France (but smaller in scale), an $25 (NZ) fee is charged by ISPs to copyright holders for processing each allegation of infringement. Considering New Zealand has one of the highest rates of peer-to-peer infringement in the world, this could be lucrative business for local ISPs.
Compare the Kiwi approach, however, to Australia, where the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft has pressured local ISPs to enact a system of graduated responses to online piracy or face “unspecified action.” The federation’s ideal system would be harsher than any other outlined above, whereby an infringer would get seven days to respond to an initial warning before suspension of service. The Australian ISPs, in response, are pushing for a more middle-ground solution.
Meanwhile, Spain’s very first anti-piracy measures have taken effect, targeting websites that directly facilitate infringement but not unauthorized P2P usage for nonprofit motives.
With so many different anti-piracy laws in their nascent stages worldwide, it is hard to estimate the effectiveness of each and all. This is especially true considering the different populations affected, the levels of infringement, systems of governing styles and a myriad other factors. Still, there’s an argument, beyond homeland boosterism, for the latest American way. While participating ISPs in the U.S. approach carry a heavy burden, the majors are aboard, and there are advantages to see to the American proposals: They keep potentially complex issues away from the already overburdened judiciary and in the hands of the ISPs; potential infringers receive ample warnings before “mitigation measures” are taken.
While the U.S. approach, issue watchdogs say, appears to have won the backing from the recording and movie industries — which long have wanted ISPs’ involvement — opponents are mustering, arguing, among other positions, that the proposed tack creates a new bureaucracy, deprives individuals of due process and shifts the burden of proving infringement on to the accused and away from the usual bearer of such burdens (the accusers).