Tag Archives: infringement

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.

-Evan.

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.”

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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.

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Free Information Culture

The last of my installments (for now) in looking at these rising alternative cultures is “Free Information Culture,”  which shares the same problem with “science” culture in that there’s really no good name for it yet. I’ve referred to it before as “internet culture,” only the problem with that is that, like “science culture,” it isn’t so much the culture of the thing itself as the culture of the fanbase. In simpler terms, it’s the difference between Hollywood culture and movie-lover culture- it’s the end product that’s valued.
So what’s the internet’s “end product”?

Besides porn and stuff like this…

Free Information.

Whether it’s the news, or Wikipedia, or TED Talks, or Imgur, or anything else imaginable, it’s on the internet for free and public use. It’s something of a great equalizer. No matter where you’re from, what language you speak, what class you hail from- you can create or say anything and then get called gay in the comment section.

And while that last bit is sort of a joke, it does play a role in developing the “free information culture.” Granted, general anonymity can make us vicious and vile people, but it also (to some extent) strips us of our egos. When you make something online, you really don’t get much, if any, credit, but that’s alright since it isn’t the point. It’s just about creating, nothing more or less. Who drew the first rage face? Who started up Bad Luck Brian? Who edited and sourced that one Wikipedia page you used to stitch your last minute term-paper together? Who puts together those monthly fail compilation videos? I don’t know and will probably never know, but I do know that they’ll keep coming because of the simple joy of creating them. I and every other person with a half-decent internet connection.

And all of this simply isn’t understood by some people.

Recall the massive outcry against the SOPA and PIPA bills? What prompted the creation of  these acts was that some people- certain corporations in particular- couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the idea of free and unlimited access. Now maybe you agree with them, and maintain that posting copyrighted material of any kind is piracy and immoral, however, what needs to be understood is that this was viewed as an act on the very nature of the internet and everything it had come to represent.

Again excluding porn and stuff like this…

Now more and more companies are catching on to the idea that it’s wiser to try to work with the faceless and vengeful cat-worshippers of the internet than against them- just look at video game companies that are starting to work in tandem with modders. The game Minecraft in particular is a good example of this, as many of the new aspects of each update to the game coming from the fan-forums themselves. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of people out there (I’m looking at you, Music Industry) who continue to struggle (vainly) against the dissemination of what they view to be the “information wants to be free” crowd.

Again, it all boils down the core of the culture that the internet has produced, gravitating around the concepts of freedom and egalitarianism. Look at Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

If he did his work back in the early 90s, we can be pretty sure he’d be viewed overwhelmingly as a candidate for a James Bond villain. But today we (for the most part) view him as being a heroic (or at least positive) figure in a world that’s become increasingly secretive and unequal. Why this dramatic shift in perception? Again, it’s the internet and it’s affect on us. In a time of economic crisis we might not be able to go to the movies, or eat out, or drive for miles to see a friend, but we can watch something online, or browse recipes, or video-chat with the same buddies that you’d otherwise not be able to see. Any threat to your full and unrestricted access to the internet is, by proxy, a threat to some of the last pleasures you have left.

Hence the formation of a culture obsessed with the values of free speech, free access to information, and freedom from censorship. And with every development of the internet or our access to it serving as another leap in the evolution of the culture, it’s safe to say that the howl of anger that the governments of the world met when trying to create such bills as ACTA is only going to intensify.