TechnoLogical: the U.S hates file sharing

Oct. 15, 2012, 10:15 p.m. | By Richard Chen | 11 years, 8 months ago

TechnoLogical is a weekly blog focusing on new advances in science and technology and looking critically at how the technology we already use impacts our lives. Come back next Monday for the next edition of TechnoLogical.

Last year, the internet managed to gloriously thwart the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Act (ACTA), as internet forums and companies alike felt that the powers given to governments were too broad to properly regulate the internet. While the internet might have dodged a bullet back then, this year, countries are at it again to push more anti-piracy bills. In a more coordinated attack to regulate censorship, the U.S. Congress and the record companies are deviously working together to monitor file-sharing services.

In a plan that has been four years in the making, major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are working the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to terminate internet access of users who illegally download files in the "Copyright Alert System" Initiative.

The Pirate Bay is the leading search engine for torrents on file-sharing networks. Photo courtesy of Techno Addictions.

Backed by the Records Industry Association of America (RIAA), this is particularly aimed at file-sharing services such as BitTorrent, because content theft is estimated to cost over $58 billion. ISPs will now be allowed to automate and filter copyrighted material transiting their networks, which will monitor torrents especially.

One glimmer of hope that arises from this initiative is that the RIAA will be halting all litigations of around 30,000 lawsuits targeting file sharers, and putting the problem in the hands of ISPs. The "Copyright Alert System" will basically work like a warning system. On any accounted infraction made by an internet user, ISPs will generate e-mails to alert the user of content theft. Repeated refractions can force ISPs to throttle the user's internet, and after enough warnings, ISPs can terminate all services.

On the surface, it doesn't seem as draconian as the vague provisions in SOPA and ACTA; however, what it doesn't account for is how it will monitor file-sharing networks. Because of the amount of traffic file-sharing networks get and the number of seeds that are hosted all over the world, it is not possible to manually target all of the infringers on the web, nor does it account the infringers out of the U.S. as they are under a different jurisdiction.

In addition, when you're weeding out the users who are illegally downloading files such as music, you'll inevitably accuse users who put out their music on the internet for free. When you're on the internet, there is little computer discretion between songs that are copyrighted and songs that are not, since the security tags can easily be removed under the file properties. It also doesn't help out the RIAA's argument when file-sharers actually buy 30% more music than people who don't file share. All of a sudden, the billions of dollars lost from file sharing don't seem as legitimately correlated anymore as before, does it?

The "Copyright Alert System" is not as diabolical as what we've seen in the past, but it doesn't feel quite right when it's working on the premise that all file-sharers are pirates.

Tags: SOPA RIAA TechnoLogical ACTA BitTorren file sharing ISPs Pirate Bay

Richard Chen. I love reviewing movies, and I think it's pretty awesome to be in a position where you can write what you're passionate about and inspire other people with it. More »

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