Copyright law protects the creator of original material that have been fixed in a medium of expression, such as a record, disc or piece of software. The Internet offers many opportunities for users to download copyrighted material without paying for it. File-sharing sites have come under scrutiny and now ISPs are working to curb this online piracy.
Widespread Phenomenon of Piracy
Pirating music and videos can result in arrest, as four men in Salt Lake City found out in July 2011. The men were found with 5,000 discs of pirated content and their operation was worth an estimated $70,000, as reported by the Associated Press. In Danbury, Conn., a piracy operation is alleged to have earned as much as $900,000 between 2007 and 2009, according to News Times. The operation is said to have sold pirated music through local music stores.
Recording Industry and Law Enforcement
The Recording Industry Association of America has worked with law enforcement to pursue pirates. Now, the RIAA is pressing for legislation in California to allow law enforcement to search replicator plants without a search warrant when the establishments are suspected of copying copyrighted materials. They claim that in 2010, 820,000 illegal discs were seized and that pirating has harmed their industry. The RIAA further claims that disc replication is a closely regulated industry and should be treated the same as other closely regulated industries, which are subject to warrantless searches by the police.
Internet Service Providers Policing
Some of the nation's top ISPs are now agreeing with the RIAA and the Motion Picture Association of America to monitor the activities of their customers. ISPs will warn customers suspected of piracy and will penalize customers who chronically violate their policy. Penalties will include reducing a customer's Internet speed and redirecting the customer to a landing page until he contacts the company to discuss the matter or responds to educational materials related to copyright issues.
Piracy's Impact on Small Business
Businesses can be held accountable for the activities of their customers over an open wireless Internet connection. When a customer illegally downloads files, the ISP may choose to penalize the business, just as it would a single customer at home. Businesses now should consider blocking access to certain websites known to distribute illegal material or require that customers use a password to access their network, to dissuade those who may sit outside the establishment to access the network.
- Daily Journal; Utah Strike Force Arrests 4 Men; The Associated Press; July 2011
- Third Person Arrested for Music Piracy
- Los Angeles Times; State lawmakers weigh anti-piracy bill; Marc Lifsher; May 2011
- CNET; Top ISPs Agree to Become Copyright Cops; by Greg Sandoval; July 2011
- TechFlash; Offer free Wi-Fi?; Greg Lamm; July 2011
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images