DO NOT COPY: Now maybe You CANNOT COPY
Each year people and corporations that create software, games, music, movies, ebooks and electronic devices find themselves being ripped off by illegal file sharers and hundreds of overseas companies that exist for the sole purpose of copying those things and selling them without permission or the payment of any royalties. Although no actual numbers are available, security experts say that illegal file sharing and product piracy companies easily cost legitimate copyright and patent holders many billions of dollars each year.
While most illegal file sharers get away with what they do thanks to the inaction of ISPs, many companies that pirate most anything they can do it with the blessing of third world nations with struggling economies that will do anything to compete on the world market and bring jobs to their citizens. Those facts present huge challenges to companies already struggling to make a buck in very competitive markets and a stagnant worldwide economy.
Apart from illegal file sharing by individuals, Product Piracy does not just occur in some dark and dingy overseas factory in the middle of an over-crowded city or hidden somewhere in a third world jungle. Thanks to some slick wording and paper thin excuses that somehow manage to stand up in court or with regulatory agencies, you can purchase software online that will copy a rented DVD regardless of the anti-copy technology employed on it; Or can you?
Three new weapons may be about to appear that will not only address, but aggressively fight against product piracy of any kind. The first is designed to target people who practice illegal file sharing of copyrighted material. The Copyright Alert System (or Six Strikes as it is known in the industry) will be implemented with the help of Internet Service Providers who will warn anyone caught sharing copyrighted files that they are involved in illegal online activity which may cause their Internet privileges to be suspended or their account to be canceled.
Although ISPs are understandably hesitant to implement a system that could severely affect their bottom line by forcing them to cancel accounts at a time when competition is stiff and new account numbers are flat, the possibility of facing an untold number of law suits and possible criminal legal remedies are strong motivators for them to participate in the new system. The current Copyright Alert System plan, which is expected to be go into affect before the end of 2012, uses a six strikes rule.
An ISP will notify any of its subscribers involved in illegal file sharing with up to six increasingly stern emails before any further action is taken. Some, but not all, major ISPs have agreed to suspend or cancel the accounts of subscribers that continue to violate the law and ISP rules. Most ISPs are hoping that an agreement to notify companies that monitor file sharing copyright violations and take legal action against those involved in it will move the problem from out of their hands into those of the offended parties.
The delay and major problem with the implementation of this new system is that the U.S. Government cannot seem to figure out how to cost-effectively go after what amounts to hundreds of thousands of potential offenders, win in court and make sure they get more than just a small fine and slap on the wrist. Other countries like France which have tried to do something about product piracy and illegal file sharing have had it backfire in the courts to the point where any law they had in place became little more than a dog that tries to bite without any teeth.
The one thing that the Copyright Alert System has going for it is that ISPs fear being dragged into court and having to spend millions of dollars on corporate and even individual subscriber cases that could result from taking no action at all against illegal file sharing. In this economy that would be a non-starter. There is also the fact that some ISPs are partially or fully owned by entertainment companies who produce copyrighted content at risk from illegal file sharing. They obviously have a horse in that race and more than enough reasons to take any action required to stop illegal file sharing in its tracks.
There are some more new weapons which will soon be available for use against product pirates. One is a highly technical and (some say) once ultra-secret technology which began its development in the cold war days. This was during a time when the Soviets lacked the ability to design and manufacture their own high technology and needed to steal and copy what they could from western nations. This is basically a bug embedded so deep in certain materials used to build a microchip or electronic device that it could not be detected by targeted parties. This bug can be used to locate and (some claim) even disrupt the ability of product pirates to build their knock-offs.
Another new weapon against product piracy is what may be the next generation of anti-copy technology that has been created with the hope of ending the ability of individuals or professional pirates to copy software, games, music and movies. According to some insiders who once worked on cable TV scrambling and successfully created that technology, this new system will allow people to continue to digitally record TV shows and movies for personal use off of their cable or satellite system, but trying to copy them on to a DVD or other portable media will not be possible. The same technology is expected to be eventually be embedded in DVDs, software discs and CDs containing pre-recorded content. It may also be placed in digital download files sold online.
Variations of this as yet unnamed and very secretive technology may allow one copy of a digital file to be burned on to a DVD, but not more than that. Legal questions abound and there are lots of disagreements between entertainment producers and providers who all have their own agendas, but the one thing that everyone is in agreement on is that the piracy of software, movies, music and other digital files containing intellectual property has to stop if anyone on the legal side of these products wants to make the profits and royalties they deserve.