ISPs whiff on protecting copyrights, customers with 'six strikes' system

The new Copyright Alert System leaves customers exposed to baseless lawsuits, bandwidth throttling, and more

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On the other hand, documents leaked to DSL Reports last October indicate AT&T may pass subscriber info to copyright holders for possible legal action after the fifth strike. How are the copyright holders uncovering copyright crooks? The same way they always have: by scanning file-sharing networks for illegal copies, recording the IP addresses of those who've uploaded or downloaded them, then contacting their ISPs.

That means, of course, the new system has the same essential flaws as the old system. There may be no way to positively confirm that the person who downloaded a torrent for "The Dark Knight Rises" is in fact the same person whose name is on the cable Internet bill. That's how the RIAA ended up suing a dead 83-year-old woman in 2005 and impersonating the grandmother of a 10-year-old girl to extract information about her allegedly file-swapping mother in 2007.

If you have an open Wi-Fi signal or run an Internet café, you could be liable for anyone who uses it to download "The Dark Knight." If you want to fight back, you'll need to pony up $35 to have your case arbitrated. (If you win the case, you get your money back.)

Considering that file sharing has been on the decline for several years and digital music sales are increasing, you have to wonder why everyone's going to so much effort for so little. Is it all for show? Is this some kind of grand bargain struck by the ISPs to finally get Hollywood (and its good friends in DC) off their backs? Or is some new civil-rights-violating horror about to reveal itself, with this as the prelude?

Will "six strikes" have any effect at all on piracy? Weigh in below or email me:

This article, "ISPs whiff on protecting copyrights, customers with 'six strikes' system," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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