The ISP Six Strikes copyright regime, rumored to be in the works over the past year or so, officially started last Monday, Feb. 25 according to usually reliable Internet sources. What this means is that if you've been enjoying every episode of "Game of Thrones" or "Dexter" by using peer to peer services as opposed to sacrificing needed meals in order to buy HBO or Showtime then you might be in for a surprise. But there are defenses against the new regime. Look them up on the Internet as they say. (Here's one hint: Use a proxy service before you download anything. More on this later.)
Here's the skinny after reading through a number of press releases and press reports.
Nowhere to Run: It looks like all of the major ISPs are in on it. So if you switch from Comcast to Verizon that means zip because both companies will be implementing six strikes. Now, obviously, if a broadband provider decided to ignore the new Six Strikes Regime and they had national penetration and availability -- perhaps riding on a combination of cell phone towers and dark fiber -- that would be a very popular broadband service indeed, Google. Stop being so coy. Stop flashing that broadband inner thigh you shameless tease...
Transparency and Penalties: The tech people who have looked at how the technology works don't seem to really know how the technology works. (For more commentary on this point see here and mostly here.) This would seem to guarantee a number of false positives and wrong warnings. Not to mention that your IP address isn't necessarily an indicator of who was using that computer. Or whether your IP address was hacked. Just all kinds of problems. We're also not sure if the Six Strikes Regime can tell the difference between legal downloads (Artists that want you to download their stuff for various reasons, which you can find here and here and here....) and illegal downloads. We've seen this kind of confusion with takedown notices.
What about penalties? Well, they could be minor or they could be catastrophic. The way this works is that every time the ISP thinks that you're downloading something illegal -- again we're not sure how they're doing this and they won't tell independent security experts like the EFF about their process -- you will get a warning, up to six we think thus the name. But each warning comes with a heavier penalty but these penalties vary by ISP. You could find that your connection gets slowed down to a crawl or you might have to enroll yourself in some reeducation camp where you'll be taught some Creationist like theory of copyright law.
But the real threat doesn't come from the ISPs. What users should be frightened of is that the RIAA and MPAA (The record and motion picture industries respectively...) may have the ability to sue you for each instance of file sharing. So they might claim in court that that one song or one episode may be worth up to $150000 in damages. Before you laugh and note that no Justin Bieber tune is worth that much these kind of damages have already been upheld and they've also been upheld as constitutional.
Bottom Line: Start learning about how privacy defenses work and fast. Make online proxy services, https encryption everywhere and VPNs a part of your inner discourse and vocabulary. Or you might be getting an extortion letter saying pay us $5000 grand now or face a half million dollar lawsuit. Prepare yourselves. If you're wondering about what you can do to fight this sign the Demand Progress petition, which already has over 80000 signatures.
Reaction from Around the Internet:
Techdirt. "Six Strikes Officially Begins Monday"
Ars Technica. "Six Strikes Enforcement Policy Debuts"
Torrent Freak. Six Strikes Anti Piracy Scheme Starts.