December 15, 2008
Tim Jones of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has some good commentary on the news that the MPAA has asked Obama to spy on the entire Internet, and to establish a system where being accused of copyright infringement would result in loss of your Internet connection (and your VoIP line, your access to your university, your lifeline to your parents in the old country, your means of participating in civic life, your means of fighting your parking ticket, etc etc etc). The MPAA also wants Obama to lean on other countries (notably Canada!) and force them to adopt US copyright laws.
Here, the MPAA is advocating for a number of things, the most problematic of which is a "three strikes" internet termination policy. This would require ISPs to terminate customers’ internet accounts upon a rights-holder’s repeat allegation of copyright ingfringement. This could be done potentially without any due process or judicial review. A three-strikes policy was recently adopted by legislation in France, where all ISPs are now banned from providing blacklisted citizens with internet access for up to one year.
Because three-strikes policies do not guarantee due process or judicial oversight of whether the accusations of copyright infringement are valid, they effectively grant the content industry the ability to exile any individual they want from the internet. Lest we forget, there is a history of innocents getting caught up in these anti-piracy dragnets. (Copyfighter Cory Doctorow has wondered what would happen if the MPAA’s erroneous notices were subject to a similar three-strikes law.)
Thankfully, members of the European Parliament vehemently rejected these measures, resolving that "The cut of Internet access is a disproportionate measure regarding the objectives. It is a sanction with powerful effects, which could have profound repercussions in a society where access to the Internet is an imperative right for social inclusion." Let’s hope the US government’s decisions on this are as wise.