Why ISPs Becoming Hollywood Enforcers Won't Actually Solve Hollywood's Problem
from the and-then-what? dept
It really was all the way back in 2008 that the RIAA claimed it was dropping its brilliant strategy of suing the music industry’s biggest fans, claiming that everything would be fine now because ISPs had agreed to a three strikes policy to kick people off the internet based on accusations (never convictions) of copyright infringement. Of course, “three strikes” sounded way too draconian, so the entertainment industry rebranded it “graduated response.” And yet, for years, it was tough to find ISPs that had agreed to do so and any time rumors came out that a big ISP was testing such a plan, those ISPs would quickly back down.
All this time, the industry has been putting tremendous pressure on the ISPs, often using the administrative branch to apply even more pressure. In other countries, they were able to pass three strikes legislation (such as in France, South Korea, the UK, etc.), but, when they put out feelers in the US, they quickly realized they couldn’t get the support needed to pass a law that would involve kicking people off the internet. Greg Sandoval, over at News.com, is now reporting that the big 3 ISPs: Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are very close to agreeing to a modified three strikes plan. The crux of the plan is to send notices and warnings to people accused (not convicted) of copyright infringement. If you get a few of those, then the response “graduates” (huh?) and the ISP has a variety of options, from slowing down your speeds to limiting you to only visiting a list of 200 popular websites. And, of course, they can kick you off the network.
Comcast and AT&T have been flirting with such programs for years anyway, so it’s no surprise to see their names on the list. And now that Comcast owns a majority stake in NBC Universal, it’s no shock that they’d align with Hollywood on this. Verizon, historically, has been much more willing to actually stand up for their users, but with less and less competition out there, perhaps they feel they don’t need to care about users any more.
However, as we’ve asked each time such efforts are undertaken in various countries, does the industry have any evidence whatsoever that such efforts make people buy any more? The answer, of course, is no. This is the key problem. The folks in the industry (and the politicians who support them) keep thinking that the problem is “piracy.” And if they just got rid of these “freeloaders,” the business model solves itself. That is, they look at infringement as the problem, and business model problems as the symptoms. They’ve got it backwards. The problem is the business model. The infringement is the symptom — showing that they haven’t yet adapted. If you look at the history of infringement, it’s the same thing every time: it’s always been a leading indicator of industry not adapting fast enough.
So, assuming this is in place already, people are reasonably skeptical that it will actually help the industry do anything. How will it make people buy? Now suddenly one of the most popular routes for learning about new content is blocked out, so you have less marketing ability. The unintended consequences of such policies will be pretty intense as well. It will be costly for ISPs to set up such a system. And dealing with responses from false or misapplied accusations will only serve to increase the cost. The entertainment industry doesn’t care about that, because that cost is borne by the consumers. In the meantime, people, who still want to access infringing material, will adopt encryption or other policies to get around ISPs snooping on their activity. It’s why Homeland Security has already warned others in the US government that such policies actually make law enforcement more difficult.
In the end, nothing here makes anyone any more interested in buying. If anything, it limits a source for learning about new works, so it decreases the value and decreases the willingness to buy. This seems like a lose-lose-lose proposition for nearly everyone. ISPs have higher costs (passed on to consumers) and are seen as being anti-consumer. Users have less freedom and face punishment based solely on accusation. And the industry that is so in love with this idea, doesn’t actually improve their business standing. It’s a trifecta of bad results. But watch as the industry declares “victory” and pretends that this will actually help their flailing bottom lines.