Bombing Bridges

CNET's Greg Sandoval reported last year that top Internet Service Providers came to an agreement with the RIAA and MPAA to engage in copyright enforcement. Ryan Whitwam noted at ExtremeTech that the agreement is set to kick in during Summer 2012 and would entail a graduated response system. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that this was not founded by governmental action but instead a Memorandum of Understanding among multiple companies that remains open for other companies to sign on.

By this summer we will see a graduated response system for copyright enforcement arise in the United States. There won't be a firm procedure in place but the general structure calls for six strikes. During later strikes there is the possibility to utilize captive landing pages that would effectively terminate a user's Internet access until they carry out whatever mitigation measure the Internet Service Provider deems appropriate. While there is the possibility of arbitration, there is not generally recourse to governmental involvement in the matter. Contractual obligations and the use of Terms of Service as private legislation come into play.

As seen at Harbor-Topky Memorial Library in the Ashtabula harbor today, signs are posted warning users of library WiFi that using file-sharing applications and peer-to-peer applications on their network may result in the termination of access privileges. That perhaps highlights the danger shared Internet connections present in light of the Memorandum of Understanding entering into force in Summer 2012. If a copyright violation is found, all that can be seen is the account's access point to the ISP's network. There is not necessarily a way to differentiate which particular user committed the infringement, though.

It is regrettably possible that six infringements by six separate users on a shared network access point could result in the termination of service. In an unprotected wireless network it is possible to have parties unknown usurp a connection and cause infringement without the knowledge of the actual account holder. Unless WPA2 and other security measures are employed, an innocent account holder could be blamed for the foul action of a third party. This has already happened which is why normal advice in establishing a wireless network is to engage WPA2 encryption as soon as possible and to keep your network passphrase secret.

A degree of sophistication is required to avoid the very possible nightmare scenarios above. This unfortunately means, though, that networking hardware marketed to consumers needs to be treated as more than "set and forget" devices. With the greater push to frictionless sharing online and reducing burdens in accessing the Internet the possibility of the digital divide widening grows.

In light of an online environment that continues to deteriorate, fallback options are always necessary. For content producers it is very difficult when potential readers/listeners/viewers cannot access the producer's goods. While it can be said by users that the Internet treats censorship and is built to route around it, that notion assumes that routing can continue without interference or disruption. As we now see, the routing of traffic is now going to be subject to intentional interference and accepting that interference will be a condition of access. By private agreement of a group of companies, the trade in information can be restrained at least with regards to information fixed in electronic form.

When it comes to LISNews let alone the rest of the LISHost galaxy this is not an insignificant concern. When the actual means of routing traffic are effectively compromised, relying on a compromised network can result in the effective disappearance of sites. Who needs to burn books when you can just put the functional equivalent of a minefield around content repositories?

Depending upon how this sort of change impacts the Internet at-large, we have looked at workarounds. Since 2009 there have been two proof-of-concept exercises to continue LISNews and other parts of the LISHost galaxy through alternative means. A print edition of LISNews was piloted after being created using tools provided by FedEx Office. Since then we have seen the creation of HP MagCloud which would more easily do what we attempted. On New Year's Eve 2011 we heard LISTen make its debut on shortwave radio through the broadcast resources of WBCQ in Maine.

In both exercises, the general content remained the same while the manifestation differed. This has been a concept seen often in modern librarianship where books have large print editions and unabridged books-on-tape. As an adaptation tactic in terms of content creation, it may soon become quite critical.

It is not necessarily time to begin fundraising to incarnate alternative manifestations of content online perhaps. A few months remain before the private enforcement regime begins. Keeping the thought in the back of one's mind is prduent, though.

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Bombing Bridges by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.