The world will likely see another two Olympic Games and two World Cup football matches before it sees any meaningful anti-piracy legislation in the US- at least according to the UK Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor. Michael Weathersley, speaking before movie and music industry groups, said that due to strong public pushback to the anti-piracy alarm three years ago it would probably take the government that long before launching another anti-piracy offensive. The industry groups and the government are still licking their wounds from the bruising battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). “It’s going to be five years before anybody puts his head above the parapet again,” said Weathersley.
If his prognosticating is spot-on that would take us beyond 2020 – a veritable lifetime – before we see any legislation. SOPA, it should be noted, was defeated for reasons that had little to do with piracy. It was thought that the anti-piracy measure would stifle innovation and thus throw the baby out with the bathwater. After the SOPA debacle the copyright industry didn’t meekly fold their tents and walk away.
They formulated a new attack, a voluntary one comprising the major industry players and technology companies. This resulted in the much ballyhooed “Six Strikes” policy and the formation of the Center For Copyright Infringement (CCI) led by five major internet providers and aimed at US ISPs. Among the participating companies are AT&T, Comcast Timewarner Cable, Cablevision and Verizon.
Their mandate is to punish persistent pirates through various blocking regimes and educational programs. Pop-up warnings would eventually lead to tutorials for the first few offenses. Ultimately the “sixth strike” results in blocking after which the offender must deal with a Customer Security Assurance Professional (a Comcast requirement).
According to experts, “Six Strikes” has not been very successful- at least not from the copyright industry’s perspective. It was however, a boon for VPN subscriptions in the US as people flocked to a source to avoid the tech companies’ program. But the industry is not without options. It has been seeking cooperation from advertising companies in an effort to choke off the revenue stream of pirate sites. Their attempts have been gaining steam but the anti-piracy fervor is not as clamorous as it was a few years ago. At least that’s the case in the US.
Across the pond is a different story. The music and movie industry proxies in the UK (FACT and BPI) have been waging a fierce battle aided by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (IPCU). And much of the efforts of the IPCU is financed by the British taxpayer, unlike the “six strikes” struggle in the US which is privately bankrolled. Recently the IPCU has issued new ultimatums to file-sharing sites with demands for them to shut down.
Lost in the controversy is the notion of the public’s right to privacy and free speech. After all, that’s what ultimately defeated the SOPA drumbeat a couple of years ago. It is still alive and well today.