American protectionism vS. European common sense

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I too spent my Sunday afternoon watching videos of a young girl drawing infinite numbers of smaller shapes within other shapes across an 8.5×11 page — this distraction was provided by Martin. The Internet soon took hold of my brain= and then I stumbled down a path leading to Reddit, where I found shocking information about how the Internet might just be reshaped by the American Congress.

“The Obama administration wants to make sure that the illegal streaming of music and movies over the Internet is a felony, and it also wants to give the federal government wiretap authority in copyright cases,” wrote ArsTechnica.com.

Victoria Espinel, the Obama administration’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator (IPEC), released her enforcement recommendations early last week. The introduction to the document states that:

“Piracy and counterfeiting in the online environment are significant concerns for the Administration. They cause economic harm and threaten the health and safety of American consumers.”

The document continues to state that “foreign-based and foreign controlled websites and web services raise particular concerns for U.S. enforcement efforts.”

Many of us are familiar with chaotic events surrounding Wikileaks and how their servers were taken offline, only to be resurrected in France and Sweden, but people might be surprised to learn that their popular sites for downloading are also hosted internationally. The thePirateBay.org and RapidShare.com are hosted in Sweden and Switzerland, respectively, thus allowing infinite amounts of media sharing.

Because these sites are based out of European countries with intellectual propriety laws very different from those here in North America — sharing content to friends and family for personal use is not prohibited — steaming and file sharing are completely legal. However, it seems as though Congress has their sights set on these foreign polices, and if the recommendations to the intellectual property enforcement legislative are approved, scoring that new leaked album for free may be a thing of the past.

For example, the recommendation for streaming put forward by Espinel is as follows, “The Administration recommends that Congress clarify that infringement by streaming, or by means of other similar new technology, is a felony in appropriate circumstance.”

It is unclear if you could be facing felony charges for uploading a movie or music you don’t own to YouTube. But, for example, if you run a small personal server and host and share movies and other files among friends who have access to it (nerdy sounding, but a lot of people do it), you would face felony charges!

Daniel Castro, an analyst at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Washington, D.C., has studied the situation and feels that the best solution to curve piracy is Internet data caps or usage-based billing.
Early last week, Castro appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, explaining the economic problems and the loss of jobs caused by “the proliferation of parasitic or rogue sites — websites enabling online piracy and the trade of counterfeit goods at the expense of legitimate businesses” — and that the government should not do anything to prevent such data caps.

Interestingly enough, AT&T has done just this; users of traditional speed DSL will be capped at a 150 gigabytes per month and users of their UVerse system will be allowed a 250-gigabyte limit; users who excide this limit will be charged $10 per month for 50 gigabytes, according to Wired.com.

This may be AT&T’s response to Netflix’s unlimited movies and TV shows for less than $10 a month in the U.S., which could potentially take a chunk of AT&T cable service sales. As for Netflix, to use the service you need an Internet connection to stream the content. Control the Internet and you could control the amount people are actually able to use Netflix before racking up serious data bills.

Is this just another opportunity for AT&T to squeeze more money out of its clients? Will users of AT&T who stream data both legally and illegally, via Netflix and sites such as Megaupload, stop downloading?