Those of you who read this blog may recall my post called “Fix it or we’ll Fix It For You
” (a version of which I posted on the Digital Music News “Insider’s Blog
“) in which I suggested that the easiest way to create impediments to illegal downloading was to cut off users who were using more bandwidth than they could justify legitimately. The Washington Post carried an article
this week confirming that Comcast was doing just that. I had to rub my eyes and read that piece a couple times to be sure, but yes–that’s exactly what Comcast is doing. “Comcast Cuts Internet Service to Bandwidth Hogs” says it all.
Some of you may also recall a post I made on Kings of A&R entitled “Why You Hate Net Neutrality if you Love Copyright
” for which I was taken to task by that well known music industry genius, the dynamic and oh, so very soulful, Tim Lee
(with apologies to Captain Koons). The piece is also discussed on the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s IP Central blog
The point in both those pieces is essentially the same: In order to discourage illegal downloading we must employ a variety of tools that can leverage the beneficial effects of the Invisible Hand. In my view, the one economic move that could make using the Internet unpleasant for illegal downloaders is to make it v-e-r-y s-l-o-w. And we know how well mall rats in the lab deal with things that are v-e-r-y s-l-o-w, the dopamine withdrawal due to lack of instantaneous gratification alone might result in an increase in the crime rate.
If you don’t like v-e-r-y s-l-o-w you’re much more likely to be willing to pay for metered Internet service so that you can steal at the old blindingly fast rates. In a metered service environment, our little friends Corky and Muffy might not be able to download quite so much the first time Mummy got a metered Internet bill and they actually had to pay for their free riding. GROUNDED FOR LIFE!! Kind of like the 140,000 people who lost their jobs in the music industry over the last few years.
I can just hear the cries of the EFFluviati now–cutting off users won’t stop downloading, they’ll just go to to more “progressive” ISPs, darknets and hard drive trading, yadda yadda yadda freaking yadda. Charging more for bandwidth won’t stop downloading! No one said it would “stop” illegal downloading. I’m saying, and now it appears that Comcast is also saying, I may not be able to make people understand that what they do is at best immoral and at worst criminal, but ISPs are able to say we don’t want your business if you steal, or if you fit the stealing profile. If you have legitimate business that take up bandwidth to an undue extent, then come forward and discuss it.
The Comcast cutoff is the predicate to metered pricing, and metered pricing is the beginning of the end for massive downloading. Sure, there will be some ISPs who keep their pricing constant, but they are going to be gifted with a bunch of massive downloaders. We’ll see how long those prices stay constant.
Also–if a handful of ISPs become havens for massive downloaders, what implications for inducement claims or civil RICO claims against those ISPs? Or–dare I even think it–the government might actually take some law enforcement action?
And one other thing–this would be the same ISPs who supposedly want to engage on the “voluntary collective licensing scheme” propounded by the EFFluviati? Cutting people off for downloading doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of that idea.
And of course–if anyone does start paying for metered Internet service so that Muffy and Corky can continue their “can buy, won’t buy” obstinacy, I have a very good idea where that metered money should be going.