It’s no secret any Internet User can download music files, videos, and software with a little bit of technical knowledge of Peer to Peer Applications, but whether these users realize they could be subject to a copyright infringement lawsuit is unknown.  Peer to Peer Applications do not advertise that downloading files could get a user caught up and held liable of up to $150,000 dollars, plus Attorneys Fees and the hassle of court.  Even though we hear that ignorance is 9/10ths of the law, doesn’t mean users can get away with downloading a vast music or video collection without damages.

I haven’t checked out P2P Applications in several years and I wanted to see what had changed in the industry of File Sharing and it appears Record Companies and others have found a way to threaten and punish downloaders.  I downloaded a file about working from home and apparently got a file of MP3s and within minutes was contacted by my Internet Service Provider who forwarded a Notice of Copyright Infringement, demanding payment of $20 dollars for the downloaded material.  It was clear that my personal information was not shared by my ISP, but they claim to have an IP Address and dashboard for ISPs and demand monitoring and shutting down Internet Services of repeat offenders.  The settlement stated that payment did not mean admission of guilt for the activity, but was just a settlement to resolve the complaint.  I gladly paid because I wanted to support the progress in protecting the Laws and avoid a courtroom brawl, as I’m just not up for it.

Problems with the Demand for Payment / Threat of Lawsuit:
First, Rightscorp, Inc., appears to attack the Internet Service Provider, demanding user monitoring, threating them, should their users continue, as well as the user itself.  I don’t know what kinds of agreements are made between Rightscorp and the ISP, but I gather they’re basically saying, if they continue to allow their users to download copyright material, then they too will be held accountable for repeat activity.  Secondly, they are demanding monetary settlement, without an opportunity to dispute the charge; as in giving the downloader a chance to say “I expected some other content, but got a bunch of music files.”  A better technical approach might be an Arbitration Program to allow an initial review of intent, activity, and remedy without the need for acquiring a high priced Attorney or just receiving a warning.

On another level, neither Rightscorp, Inc., or Internet Service Providers have NOT made attempts to block access to Peer to Peer Applications or the well known sites where the content can be found; thus giving users access to things and places that could get them in trouble.  It would be sort of like giving a teenager the keys to the car, but saying not to drive it or even worse, giving people money and access to online drug stores and telling them not to buy drugs, a gun, or other illegal items.  There is more money in allowing users to commit the crimes and then suing them than there is in attacking a single developer and shutting down the operation.  There is also more money in waiting for a Drug Lord to distribute drugs, capturing them, their money, and THEN all of their customers; rather than investing in Crime Prevention, such as stopping the drug lord from even venturing into the business.  It honestly isn’t even clear to me anymore if sharing music and video is a Federal Crime or a just a civil matter where damages can be sought.

It reminds me of the founder of BitInstant, a Bitcoin Exchange.  Charlie Shem was arrested and imprisoned because he “knowingly transmitted money intended to facilitate criminal activity– specifically, drug trafficking on Silk Road,” according to a press release by the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York..  How they proved Mr. Shem’s “knowings” that the transmission of Bitcoins would result in the purchase of drugs, is unknown, but it is comparable to an Internet Service Provider knowingly allowing access to sites such as Pirate Bay, where music and video can be downloaded.  Oddly enough, Internet Service Providers do not block sites on the Dark Web, they do not block or censor information about the Dark Web from the Public and enable users to browse it freely.  It’s as simple as blocking an IP Address at the Internet Service Provider level, but then we are now censored, not allowed to exercise freedoms.  I guess it would be similar to blocking violence on Television; not allowed since we are of age and taught the difference between right and wrong.  I just don’t understand why these sites and applications are accessible without warnings prior to accessing or a ratings system to remind users of the possible ramifications of such activities.  An ISP is “knowingly” offering a means for a criminal to conduct illegal activity and isn’t doing anything to shut down the Dark Web or restrict access to P2P Applications.

So, I guess it’s okay for Internet Service Providers to give access to stolen material and content that could cause a person to commit a crime such as violent movies, but it’s not okay for a user to engage in those activities in real life or there will be consequences should they use the tools provided to them to use as intended, such as file sharing and entertainment.  It just doesn’t make sense, other than the collection of the almighty dollar.

Copyright Infringement covers many areas concerning the protection of intellectual property of digital content and is covered in the Digital Millennium Copyright Law, which seems to offer exemption of liability to Internet Service Providers.  The subject is vast and vague, leaving it unknown whether I’m committing copyright infringement by copying the text of another website that talks about this law or using an image from Google, both pieces I believe are not protected.

Title II: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act[edit]

DMCA Title II, the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (“OCILLA”), creates a safe harbor for online service providers (OSPs, including ISPs) against copyright infringement liability, provided they meet specific requirements.[4] OSPs must adhere to and qualify for certain prescribed safe harbor guidelines and promptly block access to alleged infringing material (or remove such material from their systems) when they receive notification of an infringement claim from a copyright holder or the copyright holder’s agent. OCILLA also includes a counternotification provision that offers OSPs a safe harbor from liability to their users when users claim that the material in question is not, in fact, infringing. OCILLA also facilitates issuing of subpoenas against OSPs to provide their users’ identity.

I personally had no recourse after I launched an Internet business and within a week, found companies using the same name and offering the same service in other states and countries.  It was a highly unlikely coincidence that a company in Africa or even in the same town would operate with the same name, offering the same services as my idea, but it was so; I can only imagine it was accomplished through surveillance and a form of creative cloning or “auto generation” of a similar website, but this is just mere speculation with no real proof or re-course since I wasn’t in a position to track down the companies, file documents, and even argue the matter.  Similarly, I can’t imagine it would be easy for an Artist to file a complaint because she found out I had her work printed on a large canvas where I repainted it without paying her for it.

I also had no recourse when I found over 200 people on the Internet, sharing the same name as me or the inaccurate background reports that can be purchased on the Internet.  I also had no recourse when my photographs were used and manipulated and I also have no say or recourse to my right to privacy and my ability to search without judgement or to say whatever I want without the threat of an arrest.  Freedom of Speech and Expression is not really as it says and anything you say “can and will be used against you in a court of law” if you upset the wrong person with deeper pockets than you.  They can and will take your first born, your livelihood, and imprison you without evidence.

Let’s face it, the Internet is unprotected and the only reason Music and Video is so highly guarded is because they can afford it and they want to continue to make ridiculous millionaires where the majority of recording artists serve as horrible role models for our children.  The entertainment industry is indeed flawed and so are the mediums we deliver them on.  It doesn’t matter if the content includes references to drug activity, killing your neighbor, having sex with your mother, or with your household pet.  Content is not monitored, and children are not prevented from accessing it; nor are parents held accountable if they allow a child to view adult material.  It’s gotten to a point where you can’t even access a trusted streaming news site with the assurance that the information is real, valid, and objective.

So, a $20 dollar fine for downloading electronic media is an advance, but not really in the right direction.  A first offense should include a clear statement of the law, a warning, and a flag for future monitoring.  It shouldn’t require a court case to protect ones rights and freedoms and companies shouldn’t be allowed to hold file sharers hostage while letting the ISPs and creators of these programs and sites go unpunished.

By Savvy