Home > Computers and Internet > EU Adopts Big Brother to Fight Piracy

EU Adopts Big Brother to Fight Piracy

02-Apr-09 06:26 pm EST Leave a comment Go to comments

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) membership, which includes the leading movie production houses in Hollywood, has won a key victory in its battle to erode Internet privacy in the name of reducing media piracy online.  The new law, adopted and now in effect throughout the EU, allows copyright holders (like movie producers) to demand and get access to the network addresses (known as IP addresses) of those determined by a court to have downloaded copyright material.

Of course, this has lead to an outcry from technology experts and civil liberties advocates – both of whom argue that leaving it up to a court to decide whether the online activities of users can be disclosed to a third party (particularly a corporate entity) without notice or due process beyond an arbitrary finding of suspicious activity gives far too much power to authorities to monitor Internet activity.  Beyond this, the law also requires that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor and characterize traffic, which most in the EU do not currently.

It’s hard to guage what, if any, impact this new law will have outside of the EU – whether it will influence lawmakers in the United States or Canada to take similar measures under pressure from their own entertainment industries.  But it is conceivable that traffic logged in the EU could be invoked in legal precedings in Canada and the U.S. – possibly even to the extent of using such logs as the basis for new lawsuits.

Even so, there are those who actually favour such measures and buy into the arguments forwarded by the MPAA and its membership; that defending copyright is worth sacrificing privacy – particularly when it’s likely to be only the guilty who will be affected.

“I have always suspected extreme exposure to digitization reduced literacy.
Ross613, what part of, "sufficient evidence of illegal activity," is beyond you?
No one, anywhere in this piece, is suggesting torrent modes are banned, or illegal, or even immoral.
Pay for the property of others you wish to use in some way – you’ll be fine.”

dijit44, story comments (responding to my remarks – the first story comment added)

My response:

“Clearly some have difficulty distinguishing suspicion from proof – since I’m both a software developer and prolific writer, this might be among your shortcomings.  And it’s exactly that same confusion those making the decision about what constitutes "sufficient evidence" that I’m concerned about.

You see, there’s this concept called "due process" which protects people’s civil rights and, normally, those accused of a crime get a chance to defend themselves.  What this law apparently does is give the membership of the MPAA the right to demand IP addresses as soon as they present a court with "evidence" of illegal activity.  There no indication what constitutes evidence or any specific detail, but I don’t have an opportunity to fight the action to prevent disclosure.  My guilt (i.e. involvement in illegal activity) is assumed without my being able to raise a peep in protest.

The part that’s "beyond me" is how a rational person could conceive of this being justified in a free and democratic society.  Are we saying a company’s right to defend its intellectual property trumps the privacy rights of the individual?

I for one say it should not!”

Of perhaps even greater concern is a key decision being handed down in a Sweedish court on Friday.  This concerns “The Pirate Bay” torrent sharing website, which is facing legal action from the MPAA concerning whether the site facilitates the theft of movies.  The ruling is expected to favour the MPAA, but the question remains how far the court will go in assigning either damages and/or whether information exchange with the MPAA (disclosing visitor network traffic) will be included in the ruling.

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Terry Glavin

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