SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP) were a pretty big issue a few months ago here in America, and it still is a big deal around the world. The buzz about it has died down a bit, which is good for the entertainment industry’s plans to conquer our freedom of expression, and exercise control of the internet in order to keep us exclusively tuned into their programming.

The plan has been interpreted as unconstitutional by many people throughout the United States, including myself. Of course, not all parts of the proposed SOPA documents are written to harm the public in general, but there are scary sections within the SOPA papers that need to be understood and addressed before anything can be signed into law.

The public responded, and despite public uproars, and even the various sites around the world who took down their sites in protest of the policies written within SOPA and PIPA, areas of the world are still looking to pass it. It may be easier to pass legislation like this in other countries, but America has a system that takes forever to do anything. That should at least give us the time to fight it.

However, there is a new threat now. It’s not as bad as SOPA, but it’s a start…

Individual businesses still have the power to do many things to prevent unwanted activity from happening. Last week, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman confirmed to CNET (a division of CBS Viacom, a company leading the charge for SOPA to pass) that the largest internet service providers in the United States are going to be ‘voluntarily’ rolling out what they are calling a “graduated response” program, starting July 1, 2012.

Last week, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman confirmed that the country’s largest ISPs will voluntarily roll out by July 1 a “graduated response” program aimed at discouraging unauthorized downloading. A Memorandum of Understanding published last summer outlines the program, which was developed without user feedback. Under the new system, a rightsholder accusing an ISP subscriber of infringement will trigger a series of ever-increasing consequences. The responses are graduated in the sense that they escalate after each accusation, beginning with steps aimed at educating users about copyright and culminating in the Orwellian-sounding “mitigation measures” — bandwidth throttling or account suspension.

The plan really takes a stand against the customers more than anything, and under the program, users will be at risk of harsh penalties for downloading content that the entertainment industry thugs deems has violated copyright laws. Starting July 1, 2012, we’ll be found guilty before even having our say on the matter. What’s worse, as the EFF describes, is that customers of these ISPs will be fighting against extremely uneven odds, in an unfair legal battle which will actually require them to prove their innocence of such accusations before the plaintiff has even presented evidence that they’ve violated any laws.

One key problem is the arrangement shifts the burden of proof: rather than accusers proving infringement before the graduated response process starts against a subscriber, the subscriber must disprove the accusation in order to call a halt to it. Worse, accused subscribers have to defend themselves on an uneven playing field. For example, they have only ten days to prepare a defense, and with only six pre-set options available. Of course, there’s no assurance that those who review the cases are neutral, and the plan sorely lacks consequences for an accuser who makes mistaken or fraudulent claims.

Why are internet service providers doing this to their customers? It’s not about what’s ethically right, I can tell you that for sure. It’s again about the money, and making more of it. Much like entertainment companies have an invested interest in SOPA and PIPA, ISPs will likely profit from this program as well, when they enforce their “consequences” on you when you screw up.

So what are these consequences which users face?

The plan is to move in steps, the first being a series of scare tactics to get you to stop doing it. They call it “education” about the law, we call it “threatening to come after you if you don’t do what we tell you do to.” The first offense will basically cover information in a new website that the Center for Copyright Information launched last year. This organization is responsible for administering your punishment, should you step out of the line. The program offers little in regards to transparency.

The profit for the money-hungry providers comes in when you mess up after you’ve been educated. Upon further activity being discovered, ISPs will begin to educate you all over again by passing on their costs of administration (of what?) to you as the individual consumer. Keep an eye on your bill if you plan on downloading publicly available computer code as a copy onto your hard drive. Your getting hit with fees.

So the big question you’ve been likely wanting to know: Which ISP’s are doing this?

Hopefully, users will be smart enough to understand that they don’t have to stand for prosecution, and they don’t have to put up with corporate garbage. You have every right to walk away from them, and the EFF has even recommended “voting with your feet” if you wish. The agreement to perform such a program is said to be voluntary at this time (although being paid by entertainment companies to ‘volunteer’ for something does sound like a good idea, doesn’t it?). The companies you’ll need to look out for, in the United States:

AT&T – VERIZON – COMCAST – CABLEVISION – TIME WARNER CABLE

If you have options in your area, it is recommended that you take a stand and switch to a company that isn’t selling out, and agreeing to enforce such a program on the people who keep them in business. Two providers that have proven to be on the side of the users more often than not, for example, are Sonic and Cox Communications. According to the EFF, they have a history of fighting for their users, and are intentionally absent from this program arrangement. If you don’t have a choice, well….

Otherwise, users have little choice for now but to watch their ISP roll out this new system against their interests, and maybe familiarize themselves with the six pre-approved responses available to them after an accusation.

Our liberty is at stake ladies and gentlemen. Make sure you have a clear understanding about what’s happening in the world. Make no mistake, the process of eliminating the principles which our country was founded upon are at stake. This program will not give you fairness and equality. It will not treat you with respect. It will view you as a criminal before presenting proof of it, and it will have consequences without a proper way to defend against it. Make sure you, your family, your friends, and everyone around you understand and hear about this. July 1, 2012 is the start of something evil, and it’s only the beginning.

Be ready. Stand strong. United and open. The web is our realm. We will not give it up.

(via EFF)

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