Entries Matching: BitTorrent
Earlier today, word spread that Google, presumably bowing to pressure from Hollywood and the recording industry, had begun blocking certain "piracy-related terms" from its autocomplete search feature. As it turns out, the terms in question are "BitTorrent," "Rapidshare" and "Megaupload". There are plenty of reasons why this is a terrible idea but for brevity's sake, I will limit myself to three:
When the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals called into question the FCC's ability to protect broadband users earlier this month, the ongoing debate about the legal classification of broadband services took on a new urgency. While we've argued that the Commission should waste no time in reclassifying broadband as a "telecommunications" (Title II) service, others have suggested that no action from the Commission is necessary, seeing how Comcast's blocking of BitTorrent was an isolated act that no other ISP is likely to emulate. As if on cue, cable provider RCN has provided us with a timely reminder that Comcast isn't the only ISP that has stood accused of blocking its users' traffic. In a proposed settlement for a suit brought against the ISP for throttling its users' peer-to-peer traffic, RCN is not only not held accountable for its actions, it's also not prohibited from using similar network management techniques in the future. As this series of events demonstrates, if we're going to rely on the ISPs to self-regulate, we might as well kiss the open Internet goodbye.
The following statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:
“We learned today that another Internet Service Provider, this time RCN, was throttling its customers Internet traffic. This is yet another example showing why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to be given the authority over Internet access service. As of now, there is no Federal cop on the beat to protect consumers. Not every consumer will take a case to court, and not every cable company would be willing to settle what could be prolonged litigation. The Commission’s regulatory authority needs to be reinstated as quickly as possible.”
A copy of the lawsuit settlement is here.
Ever since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Comcast in the Comcast/BitTorrent case this morning, the tech policy blogosphere has been scrambling to unpack the court's decision and figure out what it means for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ISPs, public interest groups and various other stakeholders.
But what about the rest of us?
Who will protect the Internet user whose connection is blocked, filtered or throttled? Who will stop ISPs from blocking services that compete with their own offerings (VoIP or Internet video services, for example) or from instituting separate pricing tiers for those who wish to use their connection for gaming or video streaming? Who will ensure that tomorrow's innovative web service can reach users without being blocked or degraded? The answer to these questions might surprise you: no one.
For those of us who believe that the Internet should remain an open, democratic and non-discriminatory platform, with few exceptions, the last two years have brought a steady stream of bad news from Down Under. First, there were rumblings that Australia was seeking to implement a "three strikes" policy toward those accused of online filesharing. Next, New Zealand came close to instituting its own three strikes mandate, though thanks to the efforts of activists, that deeply-flawed law was struck down at the last minute. Finally, after a number of previous, failed attempts, the Australian government announced that it plans to mandate the use of real-time filtering technologies on public ISPs sometime during the next year.
Just when it seemed like no one in the Australian and New Zealand governments appreciated the damaging effects of such policies, an Australian federal court judge has ruled that the ISP iiNet is not responsible for the actions of its subscribers. In the landmark ruling (full text here), which will likely have ramifications in the U.S. and elsewhere, the judge rebuffs Hollywood's attempt to require iiNet to act as a copyright cop, dealing a blow to three strikes in the process. Let's take a closer look.