Shame Day II: ISPs and the Six Strike System

Normally, Thursdays here at Culture War Reporters is dedicated to “Fame Day,” in which Evan and I call attention to people, events, or trends we think aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

But not today.

Partly due to my illness, partly due to some unforeseen time constraints, and mostly because of the severity of the issue in question, today there will be no Fame Day.

Instead, we’ll be performing an emergency Shame Day on the subject of yesterday’s terrible news that five major internet service providers (ISPs) will be implementing a “six-strike” system on people suspected of copyright infringement.

Let me break it down for you.

Normally, when you sign up with an internet provider, exactly what you do or don’t do with your connection is entirely and exclusively your business. Whether it’s something as impressive as you doing an electric guitar cover of the hallelujah chorus or as lousy as writing a thousand comments calling that same YouTube video gay is all up to you. What you read, what you write, what you post, what you view- the ISP is simply there (as the name states) to provide internet.

But no longer.

Yesterday, five major ISPs (Verizon, Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast, and AT&T) announced that they would be participating in this anti-piracy initiative spearheaded by the “Center for Copyright Information” or “CCI”- a lobbyist group for a number of media groups. Quite simply, individual users suspected of “copyright infringement” will be given five warnings, the sixth “strike” resulting in their internet speed being slashed to dial-up quality for an unspecified amount of time.

Now you’re probably thinking “Hey- just don’t pirate stuff and you’ll be fine!” and you know what?

You’re right. You don’t have to pirate.

I’m taking over from this point on for a number of reasons. For the most part because although Gordon had good things to say, he didn‘t necessarily say them well, and in some cases didn’t make very much sense; we’re going to chalk that up to his recent illness. I will be relating to you what points of his that I can, while adding my own.


Gordon’s next point is that for the most part, many people pirate because of time and money. Focusing on time, the truth is that we can’t always guarantee that we’ll be at home on a Thursday night to catch The Office. Maybe we’re working another job [many of us need to], or maybe we just forgot. What options does this leave us?

For those of us in America, Hulu is always an option. The on-demand streaming site once provided a very broad range of TV programming, and Gordon points out that it’s a fantastic resource, or at least used to be. Nowadays, however, it’s a lot more difficult to use than it used to be. Hulu Plus, which requires a subscription, is needed to watch a lot of older shows, sometimes even episodes that aired a month ago, if New Girl is any indication. With one of the most convenient resources made less so, is it any wonder that so many people simply turn to torrents?

Gordon’s next point, and a very valid one, is this issue of the Six Strike System and how it relates to piracy. There’s an issue of what exactly is at stake here. Gordon insists that the answer to that is everything, and while I’m not fully with him on that, there’s some sense to what he’s saying.

The thing is that almost anything can be considered copyright infringement. YouTube covers, memes [which often use screenshots of shows like Futurama {see: our Shame Day image}], Gordon’s beloved gifs, even many of the pictures of this blog, in spite of being Photoshopped, don’t technically belong to us.  Would we have our internet cut because we run this blog? [Answer: I wouldn’t, because I am Canadian.]

To finish off what Gordon wrote earlier today, the issue is that the people in question aren’t being penalized by an international agency, or even the state or federal government. The fact of the matter is that these ISPs are “using their lobbies to persecute and prosecute suspected users without due process” [quoting Gordon]. What truly incensed him more than anything, though, was the way they’re going about it. That they’re holding themselves up as Knights of Good when in reality they’re just proud that they’re “selectively picking off anyone their bosses deem a threat to their unending stream of profit.”


Piracy is not a subject I agree with Gordon on, and in fact I had a very hard time letting his last piece on the subject be put up on the blog. If people really, truly love art, whether it take the form of television or movies or video games they need to vote with their wallets and know that what they love is worth spending money on.

That being said, I do believe that what these ISPs are doing is wrong, particularly in that they have no one to be accountable but themselves. No business or corporation should have that right. Shame on these ISPs, and shame on the Center for Copyright Information.

2 responses to “Shame Day II: ISPs and the Six Strike System

  1. Pingback: Evan and Gordon Talk: Piracy |

  2. Pingback: “White Washed Tombs” or “Shame and Social Pressure” |

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