Congressman: ‘I Want to Make ISPs Responsible for Piracy on their Networks’

Will propose federal legislation requiring them to send a warning letter to customers if they access pirated content.

In an antipiracy panel held last Thursday before a gathering of members of the US Chamber of Commerce in Hollywood, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles) has stated his intention to introduce legislation that would require ISPs to send a warning letter to subscribers if they access pirated material on the internet.

Berman said that he intends to introduce the bill along with a cosponsor Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) through the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.

Apparently the legislation is intended to be part of a broader bill aimed at “strengthening” anticounterfeiting efforts and will mandate that federal agents enforce intellectual property violations by ISPs. It will also require interagency cooperation and begin the use of international attaches to provide information on antipiracy efforts.

Berman said that there would be a “phase-in period for ISPs to notify subscribers, ” and that “Initially, it would be a voluntary program,” but it’s unclear what happens to customers who continue to access pirated content after receiving an initial warning letter.

My guess is that if it does become law that users names and addresses may be formally submitted to copyright holders who would then undoubtedly pursue them for copyright infringement and a recoupment of damages incurred.

But, what makes the matter particularly troubling is that ISPs are suddenly deputized into enforcing content filtering mechanisms for which they have little expertise or competence in handling.

Furthermore, there is no effective way for ISPs to determine if content being shared is copyright-protected or not without actually downloading it to find out, or if the person sharing it has expressed permission from the copyright holder to do so as is the case with video download services like BitTorrent Inc.’s video download store.

Also, it’s also unclear if even merely just STREAMING copyrighted content without proper permission of the copyright holder will be allowed under the legislation, but judging by the popularity of sites like TVLInks and YouTube a provision covering this may just be too much for the ISPs to handle.

Considering that most ISPs are having trouble simply increasing bandwidth and network capacity due to manpower and funding shortages do we really need such a worthless and impossible diversion to drag down our networks even further?

I guess the US government really does love its losing battles .