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The Internet: Proudly flying the pirate flag

Copyright alertsThe Times' editorial board on Friday endorsed  a new agreement between film studios, record labels and top Internet service providers to discourage illegal file-sharing. The reaction from readers, however, was unanimous: Two thumbs down, way down.

Here are a few examples:

chickenfog at 1:26 PM July 8, 2011

So throttling is now OK bc the RIAA says my account rec'd copyrighted works? LA Times is in bed w/ the guys who refuse to welcome the 21st century. Revise copyright!

thomasmc at 9:31 AM July 8, 2011

Where is the burden of proof? It appears that it will all be based on the heresay accusations of the RIAA, one the least reputable organizations in existance.

rakista at 7:32 PM July 7, 2011

Piracy which involves nearly a billion people worldwide online now will always outwit slow moving companies and governments.  Please don't wage a "War on Piracy" that will just enrich a few companies but solve none of the problems with insane copyright laws that are encroaching on 100 years....

Korben Dallas at 3:04 AM July 8, 2011

How exactly are they planning to do this? Oh yeah entrapment.... "Studios and labels will be responsible for detecting infringements, which they'll do by monitoring file-sharing networks." Studios and labels are not the police and they have no right to monitor any of my data whatsoever. I am glad LA times is not issuing press releases for MPAA, RIAA, and ISPs.

Admittedly, the comments came from a fraction of the readership, so they may not be representative. Nevertheless, I was struck by the sense of entitlement implied by the remarks. Readers seemed to be saying that they have an inviolable right to download movies and songs from one another without paying for them.

This isn't a case of Big Brother watching your every move online. One of the good things about the deal is that it doesn't call on ISPs to comb through their customers' traffic for unauthorized copies of movies or albums. Instead, it calls for copyright holders to do what their contractors are already doing, to wit, looking for copyrighted works that users of file-sharing networks are making available to the public. Korben, if you're offering to share files with anyone and everyone online, you have no reason to expect to keep that offer secret.

Thomasmc's concern about burden of proof is a good one, and it's one of the main problems with "three strikes" programs such as the ones in France and Britain. Although the Digital Millennium Copyright Act calls on ISPs to have policies that call for the termination of repeat infringers' accounts "in appropriate circumstances," copyright holders ought to actually prove that an infringement has occurred and that the account holder is responsible before imposing so severe a punishment.

The framework agreed to Thursday does call on ISPs to impose sanctions if they don't respond to repeated warnings. But the sanctions are geared toward educating Internet users about copyrights (and wrongs), not toward kicking infringers off the Net.

The fact of the matter is that studios and labels are entitled to enforce their copyrights. The major record companies notoriously filed thousands of John Doe lawsuits against the account holders associated with the Internet addresses found to be sharing copyrighted songs online, subpoened ISPs for the account holders' names, then sued those people directly. Some filmmakers are continuing to file these suits.

The new framework avoids lawsuits and subpoenas. ISPs won't disclose to copyright holders the names of the account holders suspected of piracy; they'll simply pass along warnings to their customers about infringements being detected and offer advice about how to respond. As copyright enforcement goes, that's a light touch.

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-- Jon Healey

Credit: Richard Downs / Los Angeles Times

 

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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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