Verizon objects to "Internet Service Police" label over
ISP "Copyright Alert" deal http://j.mp/pdFcjW
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I just received a note from Link Hoewing, Verizon VP Internet and
Technology Policy, objecting to the characterization of the "Copyright
Alert" agreement (announced by major U.S. ISPs) as creating a form of
Internet Service Police: http://j.mp/nlHp7Z
He included a copy of the FAQ related to the program (which was also
linked from the Wired article noted just above). Since I avoid
including attachments in these mailings, the direct link is: http://j.mp/qqs0RY
This document outlines the notification and enforcement regimes agreed
to by these major ISPs, and also expresses considerable disdain for
P2P in general, warning that "P2P [file sharing] systems "can expose a
consumer's bank account numbers, tax returns, and sensitive health
information." I'll (with difficulty) withhold comment regarding that
characterization for now.
In any case, we may be facing a disagreement on how the term "police"
may be reasonably applied.
Under the agreement noted, which is a commercial coupling between
content owners and ISPs (not a law), ISPs would act as the
notification and potentially enforcement agents for those content
owners, based solely on representations by those content owners (and
without any routine legal process or court actions) prior to the
potential "optional" deployment of technical measures that would
disrupt, to varying degrees, users' Internet connectivities.
This is a "guilty until proven innocent" structure, where the onus is
on the accused subscriber. Under the agreement, you will need to *pay*
if you want to object. Independent review will cost the accused $35
("which is waivable" the doc says, presumably if the accused is later
found to be innocent). And of course, if you're rolling in dough you
can still go to court to fight the accusations.
I'm not a lawyer, but this all strikes me as a remarkably bold and
unique agreement. It appears to be designed specifically to bypass
normal legal and court channels -- which would otherwise be in place
specifically to help avoid false, mistaken, or otherwise inappropriate
accusations -- by confronting accused users directly, and potentially
disrupting their Internet access, all triggered by a content owner's
representations, without so much as a court filing fee being paid by
content owners or affiliated ISPs.
Obviously, many subscribers -- especially the falsely accused -- will
be confused and alarmed by pop-up notifications, no matter how
politely worded. But the aspects of this agreement that involve
potentially disrupting users' Internet services (even if falling short
of a total cutoff) are especially conspicuous in the absence of any
formal legal process.
Try as I might, I cannot think of similar agreements in other
contexts, such as involving the use of conventional telephone or mail
I would argue that ISPs under this agreement are indeed taking on a
police-type enforcement role, only in this case they are operating
under the direction of content owners, not (in contrast to
conventional police operations) the courts or other authorities.
It will certainly be interesting to see the reaction of the
"legal eagles" to this agreement and its aftermath.