We have been keeping our eyes on a disturbing new trend within the movie and music industry over how to deal with online copyright disputes, and the news continues to worry privacy advocates. The idea of booting people off the internet without any recourse sounded harsh when we first read about it, but when it was an ocean away in Australia it didn’t raise as many eyebrows. The approach defiantly received more mainstream attention however when the RIAA began proposing similar actions in the US, and now the world is watching to see what the French do with a new proposed law called “Création et Internet”.
If passed into law, the legislation would deal very harshly with any form of file sharing, be it video or audio. Alleged offenders will first receive an e-mailed warning, followed by a registered letter, and lastly with a 3-12 month suspension of internet service. The law will also prevent users from switching ISP’s to avoid punishment, and even public hotspots will contain filters. Additionally, home users will be required to lock down home networks, and will be legally responsible for its security.
In return the French will start receiving DVD’s in a more timely fashion, and music DRM will be drastically scaled back. John Kennedy, CEO of the Global Music Trade Group trumpeted this arrangement as a fair trade off, while Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of a France based open internet alliance was less than impressed. “This is emblematic of how a government legislates with the same ignorance and archaism as the entertainment industries that promote the 'graduated response.' They are, like this law, doomed to fail."
Experts on both sides feel this bill has a good chance of passing into law, and if that happens, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to spread again.
The Kiwi government seems to have been somewhat precipitate in formalizing a controversial “three strikes” rule meant to discourage copyright usurpation. The anti-P2P law, which was originally scheduled to come into force on February 28, has been pushed back to March in the face of some stiff resistance from a group called the Creative Freedom Foundation and country’s ISPs.
An internet blackout organized by the group has forced the government to reconsider the controversial legislation. The Kiwi government plans to bring it into effect on March 27. However, the government wants the ISPs and copyright holders to see eye to eye on the issue before enforcing the law.
The ISPs are opposing the legislation, which makes repeat copyright infringers liable for disconnection, because they want tainted users to be able to defend themselves (using counter-notices).
The report has torrent websites and their users in its crosshairs. It seeks to ban all torrent websites like The Pirate Bay – specifically mentioned in the report, as they “allow downloading of protected works or services without the necessary authorization are illegal.” However, the presumption that the illegality of such torrent portals follows from their illegal use is not entirely incontrovertible.
Ortega not only proposes to saddle ISPs with more responsibility, he wants them to be able to be more powerful than before. He suggests that ISPs be allowed to disconnect transgressors.
All systems are go for Comcast, who confirmed to DSL Reports it has implemented its broadband throttling system across all markets. The two-condition throttling system works by first examining aggregate traffic usage data for individual segments of Comcast's high-speed internet (HSI) network. If the overall upstream or downstream usage reaches a predetermined level, the software system then identifies which subscribers are using a disproportionate share of the bandwidth and assigns them a lower priority status. According to Comcast, throttling won't actually occur "so long as the network segment is not actually congested" (see Comcast's filings with the FCC in PDF form).
It will take a sustained use of 70 percent of the downstream throughput for a user to be assigned a lower priority, which will remain that way until usage drops to 50 percent of the provisioned upstream or downstream bandwidth for about 15 minutes. In this throttled state, traffic may or may not be delayed or dropped, depending on the overall demand, Comcast says.
In the past, Comcast received heavy criticism over its decision to use forged TCP packets to throttle upstream P2P services no matter how much bandwidth a user was consuming. This new system of identifying and potentially thwarting bandwidth hogs sounds a fair bit, well, more fair than the ISP's previous approach, but we'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Do you like what Comcast is doing? Hit the jump and sound off.
Wikipedia clearly is among the most innocuous websites and one can not imagine it being blocked by a child pornography filtering mechanism. However, the improbable has just occurred in the UK. The whole problem began when an image of a Scorpions album prompted Internet Watch Foundation’s Cleanfeed child pornography filtering system - used by many of the leading UK ISPs - to block the particular page.
Consequently, all traffic to Wikipedia from ISPs that deploy Cleanfeed beagn to be routed through transparent proxies – one proxy per ISP. Even if a single user is barred from editing by Wikipedia’s anti-vandalism system, all other users using the same proxy suffer exactly in the same fashion as most UK-based Wikipedia users are sharing a handful of IP addresses.
You can track the problem as it unfolds on this Wikipedia page dedicated to it. The IWF has stated on its website that the particular page was reported through its online reporting mechanism. After it was found unsuitable for minors, the page was “added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.”
Seven of Hollywood’s most powerful studios which include Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner Bros and Disney are working together to sue an Australian ISP and set a very scary precedent. iiNet, Australia’s third largest internet service provider has been largely credited with rolling out true broadband speeds to residents. Current connection speeds range anywhere from 1.5 to a not so shabby 24 Mbit/s. With all this speed however comes abuse, and allegedly a handful of its users have turned to torrents to saturate these beefy connections with copyright protected video. According to the movie studios represented by AFACT (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) iiNet is “failing to take reasonable steps, including enforcing its own terms and conditions, to prevent known unauthorized use of copies of the companies films and TV programs”.
Adrianne Pecotic, Executive Director of AFACT claims that they were forced to take action against iiNet seeing as they weren’t pursuing the issue aggressively enough. The studios are demanding that iiNet disconnect known infringers, an action the ISP has so far refused to do. According to an iiNet spokesman, “Our view is pretty straightforward. We don’t condone or support piracy in any form, and people who choose to pirate content should face the force of the law. This is an industry issue, and we’ve been talking with the IIA, and we’ll work with them in terms of handling it.”
iiNet’s CEO Michael Malone strongly disputes AFACT’s claims saying they have merely refused to disconnect users on the basis of an outside allegation. “We can’t go and kick the customer off on the basis of an allegation from someone else’.” The lawsuit was filed in Australia’s Federal Court on November 20th with the first hearings to being within 30 days. A finding in favor of the AFACT will only further empower the studios and might spark future lawsuits abroad.
So has Hollywood crossed the line? Hit the jump and sound off.
In a seemingly never ending battle with the FCC, Comcast is back on the offensive. The cable giant is looking to overturn the ruling reached on August 1st which found them in violation of the FCC’s network neutrality principles. Comcast was mandated to immediately cease any packet shaping initiatives and to publically disclose the full extent of its traffic blocking policies. Experts close to the case have chimed in on the issue and it would appear as though news of the appeal wasn’t all that surprising. Comcast has become famous in legal circles for appealing any decision it doesn’t agree with, and this case is no exception. Comcast firmly believes that packet shaping of peer-to-peer traffic is a legitimate and reasonable means of managing network traffic and intends to defend that contention to the bitter end. Despite the impending appeal, Comcast has agreed to abide by the FCC mandates until a new verdict is reached. Comcast’s packet shaping activities have been in the spotlight since late 2007 when the Associated Press revealed proof that Comcast was blocking P2P traffic during peak hours. The FCC case was seen as a test run help to determine if it could enforce its network neutrality principles. I’m sure most Maximum PC readers are rooting for the FCC, but since so little precedent in a case like this; the outcome of an appeal could still go either way.
Comcast made it official today by announcing it will introduce bandwidth caps to all residential customers starting on October 1, 2008. The ISP describes the 250GB per month cap as "an extremely large amount of data," noting that a large majority of customers will never cross it. Or will they?
Comcast says that the 250GB cap is enough to send about 50 million emails, download 62,500 songs, download 125 standard-definition movies, or upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos. Put into that kind of perspective, 250GB seems plenty for all but the most bandwidth hungry users, who tend to be up to no good anyway. The ISP also notes that the bandwidth cap represents the same policy that has already been in place, except with more explicit numbers outlining what is and isn't allowed.
"As part of our preexisting policy, we will continue to contact the top users of hour high-speed internet service and ask them to curb their usage," the company told ArsTechnica. "If a customer uses more than 250GB and is one of the top users of our service, he or she may be contacted by Comcast to notify them of excessive use."
Previous speculation of Comcast's impending bandwidth cap pointed towards a $15 fee for every 10GB customers go over the limit, but a cursory glance at the company's FAQ page doesn't appear to make mention of overage penalties.
What are your thoughts on Comcast's decision to cap bandwidth?
It seems that in the rapidly approaching future I may have to pay extra to my ISP to download my collection of Steam based games when I upgrade my PC or wipe a hard drive. Forget about streaming movies over the net. In fact, best keep your quality internet time to surfing text pages, email without pictures, and IMing. Okay, not quite that bad, but close, if some ISPs have their say about it. The Associated Press covered a story in which a man in New York changed from his cable company to his phone company based on the offer of a year of free service on a two-year contract, an attractive deal. Soon afterr Frontier Communications quietly updated its policies saying it would limit internet activity each month to 5GB. That’s the same figure that several other companies are trying out.
This story is particularly interesting because it’s a phone company trying the cap, not a cable company. Since in this man’s particular area the cable company is Time Warner, which is trying a pilot program in Beaumont Texas with a 5GB cap on its cable service for new users, it might not help to switch even if he can get out of his phone company contract. That is a scenario that we could see repeated in many areas if this catches on.
These scenarios are tough sells to customer that aren’t interested in having additional fees tacked on to their bills, especially after the fact. If consumers are left without a choice because all of their area ISPs are capping their downloads, it’s customers that lose out and it becomes pretty easy for ISPs to charge more money for less service. 5GB of data isn’t much at all.
Do you think this will backfire on ISPs? Sound off below.
The Federal Communications Commission is now going to reign in on Comcast’s controversial practice of hampering peer-to-peer internet traffic. Out of the five FCC commissioners, three have voted, thus far, on whether Comcast is liable for punishment for filtering internet traffic. And all of them want the cable company to be punished, but the punitive order will officially be executed once the remaining members have voted – a mere formality. The FCC doesn’t intend to fine Comcast but merely wants it to abstain from internet traffic filtering altogether.
Comcast has been in the eye of the “network neutrality” storm since August, 2007, when TorrentFreak revealed that the leading cable company was filtering internet traffic. It is rumored that the company utilizes Sandvine hardware for warding off P2P traffic but Comcast has not even acknowledged that it indulges in such practices. Comcast is currently busy defending itself in a class-action suit which alleges that the company’s actual services betray its promises, for it restricts internet access despite promising unshackled service.
This being such a contentious issue, that has invited intense reactions from all corners, you all are expected to set the comments section afire.