U.S. internet service providers have voluntarily agreed to begin an intensive digital surveillance operation on July 12th, 2012. The plan is supported by all major ISPs, including Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, as well as the Obama administration.

The RIAA and MPAA came up with this plan as an intensive, somewhat draconian response to pirating across the nation. The measure could throttle bandwidth of users that regularly download copyrighted material, and eventually effectively block all access to the Internet if the user continues to download copyrighted material.

Much like France’s three-strike HADOPI system, this anti-piracy plan is enforcing a strict six-strike process.

1. The ISP monitors all of their customers intensively (including data transfers).
2.  If a user is found illegally transferring copyrighted material, they will receive an “educational notice” which describes the penalties associated with copyright infringement.
3. If illegal activities are continued, the ISP will send “confirmation notices” to confirm whether the user received the original educational notice.
4. If illegal data transfer are still continued, the ISP will now begin gradually throttling the bandwidth and even blocking certain websites until the user agrees to stop sharing files, which will lift the restrictions.
5. The user is now subject to lawsuits and further incrimination if illegal activities have continues beyond the throttling of bandwidth.
6. The sixth strike is unclear in the documents released, but could be translated into more important federal lawsuits.

This is a powerful anti-piracy measure that goes beyond SOPA and PIPA, and further than legislation’s capabilities. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) complains that these measures could be played in cahoots with copyright holders to antagonize innocent people. The exploitation of the law was the question with SOPA/PIPA, but is it going to be like that? There is no universal database for all the seized data to be stored in, meaning the ISPs themselves have to sift through all the information (probably making use of scripts and bots).

Another valuable question that comes up when thinking about these kinds of measures (deep packet inspection) is where does the data go? Is it stored indefinitely? To access the illegally downloaded files of some, that means the ISPs, and possibly eventually the government, will have to sift through our other valuable documents and data transfers. And at least for a long while, store them, so they can be inspected. Is that something the public is comfortable with?

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