AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon May Start Punishing File Sharers

By  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

People who illegally download movies and music may soon face more than just empty threats from their Internet service providers.

Some of the largest ISPs in the United States are close to agreements with the entertainment industry to crack down on piracy with stiffer punishments, according to CNet. Repeat offenders could face throttled bandwidth speeds or limited access to the Internet, or they may have to attend programs to learn about the subtleties of copyright law.

CNet’s unnamed sources say the agreement between ISPs and media companies isn’t a done deal yet. But their partnership, which was encouraged in part by the White House, could be announced as early as next month. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are all reportedly involved.

The entertainment industry has wanted this approach to piracy for years. In 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America said it would stop suing individual file sharers and instead pursue a “graduated response,” in which Internet service providers would penalize offenders.

But the ISPs were reluctant to play ball. Some providers would send threatening letters to subscribers, but rarely would they take action. As DSL Reports notes, Cox Communications was the only major ISP that freely admitted to kicking repeat offenders off its network, and only in extreme situations after many warnings.

The rumored agreement between entertainment companies and ISPs would change all that, although it’s not quite the “three strikes” rule that we’ve seen in other countries such as France and Ireland. In the United States, ISPs will likely stop short of terminating users’ Internet connections completely.

If you’re a law-abiding citizen, there may some downsides. ISPs will reportedly share the cost of operating the program, and I’m guessing those costs will be passed on to subscribers. And as with any anti-piracy effort that relies on detecting IP addresses, there’s a risk of accusing innocent people who keep their Wi-Fi networks open, either intentionally or inadvertently.

But if the agreement goes through, the entertainment industry will celebrate it as another blow to piracy in the United States, following the shutdown of popular file-sharing service LimeWire. Some individual rights holders have also found success strong-arming file sharers with bulk lawsuits. It’s a tough time to be a pirate, even if the craftiest of file sharers will always find a way.

(This post republished from Techland. Image from Flickr user Svadilfari.)


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. @bradleyjp Says:

    So much for being just an ISP, guys. Can't wait to attend those sessions.

  2. Cari Says:

    It's not enough that Comcast has a monthly data usage cap that makes it nearly impossible to do all the things we SHOULD be able to do with our internet service? I have had to make the choice–use my regular computer for everday things (not really a choice, that's a given) & play games on my PS3 is all I can do before I near that threshold. Friends tell me I should get Netflix (PS3 has that, but I can't use it due to cap), Comcast constantly pushing all their neat XfinityTV (can't do that either), now there's HBOGO (been a subscriber for over a decade, but can't use that–cap). Had to pay extra for 2 3G Kindles instead of just the wi-fi kind so that, heaven forbid, we weren't using the wi-fi to get our books. Now I find myself wanting a tablet, but can't get one that runs on wi-fi…

    They can crack down on thieves all they want. I don't care if it means that they'll remove that effing cap so I can get w/the times!

  3. Wally SirFatty Says:

    Really? You were worried about a Kindle affecting your bandwidth cap? Then you should pay for a internet access plan that does not cap at 100MB.

  4. Papa Says:

    Lol-pretty sure the Comcast cap could download a billion books on the kindle.

  5. hemingways Says:

    PS Network/Xbox Live uses 1 GB every 8 Hours of online play, on average. The average computer user uses less than 1 GB of data per day. The heaviest legal users don't come close to Comcast's 250 GB per month cap (which averages 8 GB per day). You could play your PS3 online 24 hours a day while surfing the Internet and playing Netflix/Hulu and you won't approach 8 GB per day.

  6. Eddie Ever Says:

    What's going to be fun is when users crack down on ISPs like Comcast and At&T.
    Break up the local soon the be national monopolies, elect officials who will do just that, create competition nd lower prices.


  7. Cari Says:

    I hear ya there! Healthy competition! It's the American way!

  8. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Wow! I guess there might be a penalty for breaking the law and theft. Who woulda thunk?

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  11. Tilted Sideways Says:

    Illegal downloads is not theft. It is infringement. Theft is when you take something AWAY from somebody else, and then they no longer have it. Infringement is when you deny a party a potential sale (because you downloaded it for free, or shared it with others and thereby impeded a potential sale.

  12. Evan Says:

    I'm sticking it to comast. I'm seeding Ubuntu and Open Office past my "cap" of 250 gb starting this month. I'm sick of they're telling me i can only use that much bandwidth especially since i do a lot of hd editing and need to move t hem to youtube/upload and donwload stock footage from pond 5 and footage firm. its a pain in the ass and two can play this game. if they throttle my internet for sharing legal files i'll look into a class action.