Copyright Infringement Notification – The problems of Internet Termination

I see that the subject of internet termination for piracy is back on the agenda, that’s the idea that if you are suspected of piracy (illegally downloading content that you should be paying for) your internet should be terminated without trial.

I thought I would take some time and share a story from 2008, an experience of mine about how this practice could go so horribly wrong. I was asked by a friend to do this and it is long so be warned your in for a big read.

My name is Matty (most of you know that) I am autistic, but very high functioning and I live in New Zealand. I am a poet, a writer, a gamer. I run large groups online and have been using computers since age 4 and the internet since age 7, currently I am 21 years old. Those that know me call me “The Internet” as a joke for just how much I am online. I use the internet a lot for everything. Its not just a tool for information, but is my independence.

With the internet I can shop, make friends, contact doctors and counsellors. I can volunteer in projects without leaving my home. Share my poetry. I can even talk to people from all over the world. How many of you know an Alaskan goat herder? I run groups and support networks, I just really like to help people when I can.

Unknown to me at the time in June 2006, my internet provider is/was acting on the idea of termination of internet on suspicion of piracy already. I am not sure if they still are. It was about 3am in the morning and suddenly out of no where my internet Disconnected. I sometimes wake up at odd hours due to time-zones in other countries being different and I personally like the quiet. This sometimes happens, especially at that time when I lived in the centre city of Christchurch.

I thought nothing of it and just went to bed again. The next day it was still down. Again I wasn’t to bothered. I had mobile internet anyway and I could check my emails from my phone. By the third day I thought something must be wrong and called them. They had informed me that they had sent my ISP email address (My email address registered with them) an email informing me of a copyright infringement notification. I had never used that email, but even more odd, I thought it very strange that they had terminated my internet without calling me. I also thought it was horrible of them to disconnect my internet and thereby making me unable to even go in and receive the email they had sent?

This is what the email said. (Copy and pasted)

Subject: Copyright Infringement Notification

Sender: WorldxChange Communications

Date: 06.06.2008 10:00

Dear Customer,

We have received notice regarding your IP address (at the time) actively downloading the following copyright material. This activity is against our terms of service which you agreed upon when joining Xnet (Acceptable Use Policy http://www.xnet.co.nz/content/terms.shtml). If you have received this email without speaking to a customer service representative, then please call us on 0800 14 9638 to expedite the notification process.

What Is A Copyright Infringement Notice?

The movie, game & music industries have empowered a number of organisations to investigate and prosecute breaches of copyright occurring on the Internet. A copyright infringement is notice of a copyright breach which is usually sent to the offending users Internet service provider. You put yourself at risk of receiving a copyright infringement by using third party sharing programs and downloading copyright content from the Internet.

What happens if I receive a Copyright Infringement?

You will be warned and provided with a copy of the infringement in question. We will attempt to contact you within a 24 hour period to notify you of the Infringement. If we are unable to speak with you your internet service will be temporarily suspended until we are able to do so. The option is available to contact the copyright organisation and dispute said infringement. If copies of correspondence can be shown to clear the matter the infringement will not be taken into account.

What happens if I receive a second Copyright Infringement?

We will attempt to contact you within a 24 hour period to notify you of the second Infringement. If we are unable to speak with you your internet service will be suspended until we are able to do so. The Internet service will be closed & notice of the second infringement will be given. The option is available to contact the copyright organisation and dispute said infringement. If copies of correspondence can be shown to clear the matter the account can be re-instated.

Overview

Copyright breaches are illegal and dealt with in a serious manner. We do not wish to lose a customer however repeated Copyright Infringements leave us with no choice. If you receive two infringements (un-disputed) your Internet service will be closed and you will need to find another provider.

Best regards,

WorldxChange Communications

Ph : 0800 14 XNET (0800 14 9638)

— Infringement Follows —

Case:

ID: I removed this for privacy concerns

Status: Open

Complainant:

Entity: BayTSP, Inc. on behalf of Paramount Pictures

Contact: Compliance Manager, Compliance Team

Address: P.O. Box 1314, Los Gatos, California 95031 United States of America

Phone: (408) 341-2300,(408) 341-2399

Email: paramount@copyright-compliance.com

Service_Provider:

Entity: WorldxChange Communications

Address:

Email: abuse@wxnz.net

Source:

TimeStamp: 2008-06-05T12:48:58.000Z

IP_Address: 118.90.15.18

Port:

DNS_Name: ip-118-90-15-18.xdsl.xnet.co.nz

Type: BitTorrent

UserName:

Number_Files: 1

Deja_Vu: No

Content:

Item:

Title: Iron Man

FileName: Iron.Man.2008.Eng.DVDScr.DivX-LTT

FileSize: 741524469

URL: http://218.145.160.136:8080/announce

Right… I was very, very confused. You see. I don’t believe in piracy, or downloading illegally. If you can obtain it without downloading, I try my best to do that. In-fact I own 200 or so dvds and I admit that some of the ones I own, are also on my computer but I can guarantee 100% that I own them in physical form. The reason I don’t download things is not by any moral justification, that its right or wrong… but because I have a visual memory and remember everything I have watched. I think in pictures, well… moving images. To me looking at my bookshelf and scanning the cases of names, is like looking at my memories. I watch so many things, and re-watch and also I like to lend them to other people that I just prefer to own them. The only things I ever have downloaded illegally have been things that are impossible to find. Usually advertisements, trailers for games and movies… though I am not sure the companies mind if I am downloading their movie or game trailers? (Is that illegal, I suppose it technically is?)

Technicalities aside I was very upset… why would I download a movie that just came out, for starters the quality of it would be horrible… I am a pretty patient person. I would rather just wait for the DVD (And I did! I bought the movie after it came out) however the damage had been done. In the course my internet was terminated I had missed certain meetings. I was unable to shop properly over the internet. My groups that I run thought I had died and I had been getting calls at their expense to my cellphone from as far away as Russia. When I go away I like to let everyone know, so this for them was a worry.

I am lucky to never have been put through it all again, but my point remains. My internet which I depend on for my independence was terminated, it caused trouble for me and others. I struggled to understand what went wrong, I had no idea how to defend myself on the charge of piracy, when it was not me who had pirated. The way my ISP contacted me about it made it impossible for me to understand the situation, due to the fact my internet was terminated and they contacted me via the internet to explain it…? It still baffles me.

Most of all though I felt very hurt, they were accusing me, without a trial of downloading illegally without educating me on exactly how I downloaded illegally. Their email assumed my guilty and the only way I could dispute it was by dealing with an American organization. Yet their was no information on how to dispute it. Was I suppose to call the USA from my phone at my own expense to defend myself?

I think I also felt hurt because I had been buying a movie a week sine 2007, if anything I am what the Anti-piracy lobbies want out of society. Someone who just keeps giving them money on a regular basis.

I accepted my warning back in 2008, and I really wish I didn’t. I am not a person that conducts in piracy, and even more important is that I am not a criminal. I don’t think ISP’s or organizations that have nothing to do with laws of my country should be making these decisions as if they have authority. I don’t think that I should be guilty before giving a fair trial.

That’s not the whole reason I wrote this though, The way my ISP went about it brings up so many concerns.

  1. Who decides who is guilty and who isn’t, do the ISP’s act on information gathered within this country, or by organizations outside of this country? Could this information be falsified by a third party with other motives. If hackers broke into “The right email account” Could they effectively email an ISP and have hundreds of thousands of users disconnected?
  2. who chooses what organizations to accept these notices from?
  3. When internet is terminated, if it is done like it was to me in 2008, their needs to be sufficient information on how to dispute the accusation. Telling them to contact the organization that placed the notification on you is not enough. Numbers, emails and other details need to be provided CLEARLY. Especially information on the company that placed the infringement notice.
  4. Other countries have already declared the internet a human right, and I rely on the internet for communication with everything from doctors to counsellors, social workers and even WINZ. With such a system in place why is their no mention at all of a list (Much like with my power company) that termination can’t be done due to emergency circumstances. You don’t turn power off on a person with life support, and you shouldn’t turn the internet off to a person who relies on the internet due to mental health or physical disability for communication and support.
  5. What happens if someone from a business or school manages to use internet they shouldn’t for illegal downloading. Would you turn off the schools or businesses internet? What if that person works from home? You would be denying them their livelihood based on an accusation from someone not even in the country. What if due to an accusation by some American organization you cannot earn your money to pay the rent?
  6. How will these accusations be proven? Will their be some kind of invasion of privacy where computers are ceased and searched? And even if they do have proof something was downloaded illegally (Like in the case made against me that I know I definitely didn’t do) how can they prove its the account holder and not a hacker or a young minor of the household? If it is a minor, how will they be dealt with?
  7. What educative measures will be conducted by the government to schools and parents who may not understand piracy. Surveys show a majority of piracy that is caught now are done by under 18s who don’t have the money to purchase what they want. How will those not internet adept people be educated about piracy so that parents and families can deal with it and even prevent it from happening in their household.
  8. If educative measures are in place, how will those who think about piracy (connecting to a torrent site and conducting a download) but decide to not conduct in it be handled. I have read reports online of the MPAA sending accusations to ISPs in other countries, however the people they are complaining about never actually downloaded the content illegally due to having second thoughts. Wouldn’t these measures of making those who did the right thing be treated as if they are guilty counteract the overall goal of why the rules and educative measures were put in place to begin with?

I am sure there are many others but these are my concerns and experiences of just what could happen with such rules in place. In Finland Internet connections are now declared a human right. People use the internet as not just a tool for information but a basic necessity for there day to day communications and operations. Some use it for business, and others like me use it to communicate due to disability. I know of a friend who is deaf that relies on the internet to communicate with various organizations and people because she can’t just pick up a phone and call them. The internet to many now in this new decade is a necessity to life in the 21st century.

Soon there will be a generation of children who won’t know a time before internet and cell-phones. They will be the most connected generation on earth. I personally don’t believe that such a policy as guilty before trial is the correct way to go about the war on piracy. I would start with education. I think part of the problem with piracy in reality needs to be blamed on the publishers of the media being pirated. Some of these publishers need to grow up with the times. When someone buys a movie, they just don’t want it to watch at home on their TV but also on their Video phones and portable media players.

If piracy wishes to be fought against then media needs to grow up and evolve to give people a reason not to pirate. Currently if I buy a DVD I only have a DVD, I can watch it on my computer and the TV, and any other player with a DVD player attached. For me that’s enough but for most people it is far easier to download a film and put it on all their storage devices, from video phones to portal media players, laptops and even their home media PC’s than it is to buy a DVD and be restricted on where the media can go.

Well I think that’s everything I have to say on the matter, sorry this long but I did warn you!

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