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How ISPs’ ‘six strikes’ anti-piracy program could wreak havoc on public Wi-Fi hotspots

Published Jan 28th, 2013 6:53PM EST
ISP Six Strikes Policy

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Here’s another reason why Internet Service Providers’ plans to implement a “six strikes” anti-piracy system could be a disaster in the making: it will likely make life miserable for businesses that offer their customers free Wi-Fi connectivity. Essentially, ISPs have not yet indicated that they’ve figured out a way to avoid punishing everyone who uses a shared connection simply because one person on that connection allegedly pirated copyrighted material. What this means, as BoingBoing writes, is that “anyone operating a hotspot will quickly find that it can no longer access popular sites like YouTube and Facebook, because random users have attracted unsubstantiated copyright complaints from the entertainment industry.”

But that isn’t even the worst aspect: Verizon’s (VZ) recently leaked “six strikes” policy shows that copyright holders can obtain court orders forcing Verizon to hand over the IP addresses of serial copyright offenders, who will then be subject to legal action. So if you own a small mom-and-pop coffee shop, you could potentially wind up in court because just one of your customers has used your connection to repeatedly download or distribute copyrighted material.

Faced with such incentives, is there any reason at all that most small businesses would continue to offer their customers free Wi-Fi connectivity? The answer, sadly, is no.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.