Our View: Internet regulation does not start with corporate control

DKS Editors

Imagine for a second that you are in a store and you want a Coca Cola, but you don’t want to pay for it. So, being the reasonable person you are, you steal it. But, unbeknownst to you, a Coca Cola worker watches you steal it and tells the store owner.

Now imagine for a moment that when the store owner catches you, he or she simply chops off your hand. “That’s your punishment for stealing, and now you’ll have difficulty stealing in the future,” he or she might say. And then you go home sans hand, because in this world the store owner has the right to decide and enforce punishment on people who steal from him.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this ridiculous metaphor is for the premise of the copyright alert system, or “six strikes” program. Internet Service Providers, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, have just started implementing CAS to catch the illegal download and sharing of copyrighted content.

The goal of CAS isn’t a bad thing; we all know pirating movies and music is wrong, and no one is arguing that the systems shouldn’t be fixed. It’s the execution of CAS that strikes us as suspicious.

The trick behind CAS is that content owners will join peer-to-peer networks and look for people stealing their content. These content owners include companies like Walt Disney Studios, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox and others. These corporations will then contact the ISP of whoever is pirating their content, and the ISP will send warnings or notices to alert the subscriber that illegal activity has occurred on their Internet connection.

This isn’t exactly new. What’s new is that if the illegal activity continues, the ISP can temporarily throttle your Internet speeds or downgrade your service.

While many Internet activists are denouncing CAS for its invasion of privacy and its hindrance of the spread of free, open WiFi networks, what we are more concerned with is the power that corporations can wield against consumers. This isn’t a government law; it’s a deal between ISPs and big business to punish people they think are breaking the law.

As Demand Progress so succinctly described it, CAS makes corporations “serve as judge, jury and executioner.” How much more power are we willing to give to big business?

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board