The U.S. Copyright Office Says Pirates Shouldn’t Lose Their Internet Connection

By Bill Toulas / July 8, 2020

Back in April, when we interviewed the intellectual property attorney Kerry Culpepper, we asked him about what the best solution to stop piracy would be. The answer was to force ISPs and host providers to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers and abduct their right to connect to the internet. A recent letter sent from the U.S. Copyright Office to the Senators in the country analyzes this very proposal and calls the termination of internet accounts inappropriate, even for persistent pirates. Instead, they suggest the limitation of the internet bandwidth for these subscribers, which should be enough to deter them from engaging in pirating activities in the future.

Last May, the Copyright Office proposed stricter DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) law provisions, recommending additions that concerned the ISPs, like calling ISPs to publish a clear infringer handling policy. Moreover, they urged the Congress to clarify matters that concerned the termination of internet accounts on the ISP level. They also focused on what actions should the ISPs take when they receive a takedown notice from a copyright holder. Furthermore, the effect of the DMCA subpoenas was proposed to be extended to include the ISPs.include the ISPs.

Related: U.S. Copyright Office Pushes for Harsher Anti-Piracy Laws

All this caused concerns, so the Copyright Office returned through a clarifying letter, calling the Senate to consider individual user rights. Terminating someone’s internet access is considered a very drastic measure these days, as the person is left with no alternative options. Violating the copyright law is, of course, a punishable offense, but free access to information is also a right that should be protected. This right becomes even more powerful when multiple people are using the same internet connection, like a five-member family sharing the same IP address, for example.

So, the Copyright Office is proposing a median solution, which would be to throttle these connections for a pre-determined period. Limiting the bandwidth or slowing down the service speed should be enough to deter repeat infringers, and it would make piracy next to impossible from a practical perspective as well. Keeping the internet connection alive in that case would protect the right to access information, though, so this approach could work well in this context.

There are quite a few cases under the American justice system review right now, involving copyright holders going against ISPs, accusing them of not doing enough against repeat infringers. That said, what the Senate decides on the matter will be pivotal for both the ongoing and future cases.

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