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ISPs plot to take over the browsers of movie pirates, which is all kinds of screwed up

Published Jun 15th, 2017 7:20PM EDT
ISP torrent notice: Rightscorp

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According to a report from TorrentFreak

, movie rightsholders and major internet service providers are in “very thorough” discussions on new anti-piracy measures. You might think “measures” means a scary ad or a threatening letter, but the movie companies are thinking much, much nastier.

The idea being proposed by Rightscorp, an anti-piracy outfit that represents a number of movie studios, is to effectively suspend internet services until people suspected of violating copyright have paid a small fee:

“In this program, we ask for the ISPs to forward our notices referencing the infringement and the settlement offer. We ask that ISPs take action against repeat infringers through suspensions or a redirect screen. A redirect screen will guide the infringer to our payment screen while limiting all but essential internet access.”

The “program” that Rightscorp is talking about is the slimely-named “ISP Good Corporate Citizenship Program,” which wants to use internet providers as the enforcement arm of movie studios. Currently, Rightscorp tracks BitTorrent downloads tied to IP addresses, and sends notices about those IP addresses to the relevant ISP, along with a small fine, normally $20 to $30.

The problem Rightscorp currently has is that most people ignore those letters, or the ISPs never bother to pass them on. Rightscorp could try and take individual users to court, but that’s expensive, unpopular, and just a lot of effort for a movie studio.

Instead, Rightscorp wants to suspend all internet service until someone suspected of a crime — with no trial or submitted proof — pays up. Suspending service or forcing an ISP to show a redirect page is a huge overreaction to a possible crime, especially given the lack of proof.

An IP address — which is all you can find from public BitTorrent records — is massively different to proving an individual’s identity. In a shared apartment, for example, the movie studios have no way of working out which individual downloaded. Things get worse when you consider the number of unsecured (or poorly secured) Wi-Fi networks that exist.

That lack of proof is why movie studios have stopped taking cases to court, where judges don’t tend to like inconclusive evidence and hearsay. Trying to strong-arm ISPs into enforcement is a terrible idea, so let’s hope that other ISPs have the backbone to do what Cox did recently, and take Rightscorp to court over enforcement.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

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