File Sharers Won’t Allow A Target on Their Hard Drive

Some well meaning copyright defenders have decided that the best way to end piracy is to make the ISP responsible for policing its own networks. On the surface it seems like a fair proposition. Why shouldn’t the Internet Service Provider be responsible for how its own network is used? Find any abusers, give them a chance to repent, and if necessary, shut off their bandwidth. Yes, it sounds simple enough, except for one detail—it won’t work. Why?

If the Internet was like Dodge City in the 1800s, then a team of well intentioned, quick draw US Marshals could be expected to tame the law breakers. Unfortunately, the Internet is virtual in nature and was created with its own laws of the digital jungle. One of those laws—which overrides all else—is that by design, information online is porous. Data slips through the internet like water through a screen door. For every imaginable digital lock there is a digital key.

The plan being suggested by many these days is that the ISP should carefully monitor its users by IP address to see who is consuming extra large chunks of bandwidth and warn them against sharing content illegally. Peer2peer file sharers, however will not stand around waiting for a target to be attached to their hard drives. They have already created new hacks for P2P networks that obscure the user’s true IP address making them invisible to the ISP. Go take a look at BTGuard–Anonymous Bittorrent Services (http://btguard.com). This site advertises, “BTGuard gives you an anonymous IP address and encrypts your downloads. Not even your ISP will know what you’re doing.”

A few months ago UK Broadband company TalkTalk echoed these issues. When asked about making the ISP responsible for enforcing piracy it told Sky News, “It’s profoundly unfair—it is like making a bus company responsible for shoplifters who use their buses to get to the shops. It is futile since people will switch to undetectable methods and encrypted services.”

Asking ISPs to police the Internet is unrealistic.

What To Do?

No one in the history of the Internet has ever been able to illegally download even a single track without an Internet connection. So the answer is simple. Mandate that all ISP users pay a content fee before they get connected. Looked at another way, they are paying on the way into the store. For more details on such a plan and how it might work visit here.

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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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