If the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement comes to pass and somehow goes through Congress and becomes law it will be the dawn of a new millennium in itself. There's a long way to go before that happens. Nobody knows exactly what's in the proposals going back and forth between negotiators. Reports suggest some kind of three strikes you're out rule has been agreed upon. There are reports of language in the agreement that makes it a crime to pirate intellectual property and master name and internet I.P. addresses being compiled. Telecommunications regulators do not appear to be at the table, only trade representatives of each country. To be sure, there has been input from the FCC.
Intellectual property associations need no introduction. Many consider the MPAA, RIAA public enemy number one. The reality is very different. The organizations have valid arguments and have countered torrent and peer to peer sharing entities in the same manner as the freeloaders, with money and resources. They represent those that have been wronged by anyone that believes its okay to steal property and distribute to the general public as they please and not compensate the rightful owners.
The argument that torrent sites are not profiting from distribution, nor the individuals, is flawed. That's like saying it's okay for a crowd of people to watch someone break into a liquor store and then pass around the cases of beer to all the witnesses (and willingly accept it) and anyone associated with it shouldn't be charged with possession of stolen property. File sharing users will to have to face the music; the intellectual property groups are coming after you whether you like it or not. Going underground trying to obtain copyright protected files, the guiltier they are going to look. Finding you is not hard to do, even with encryption and proxy servers galore. The arms race has begun; the MPAA and RIAA have the funds to combat the problem, you don't. The feds got Al Capone with tax evasion law, not prohibition charges. One way or another they are coming after file sharers with a three strikes you're out or criminal charges of stealing and huge fines. Lawyer fees are on top of that.
If it does come to pass, where does that leave the public interest? Very few lawyers understand how to defend such cases on behalf of a defendant. The courts barely understand the technology and rely upon witnesses brought forward by defense attorneys that just getting used to this stuff. The FCC with all of its history, good and bad, is viewed as big government that has no clue. The FCC is perhaps the only agency equipped with the knowledge and people that understand the subject matter. They deal with complaints and disputes with every telecom provider in the country. They have regional offices and deal with justice representatives every day. In other words, they know their way around every nook and cranny of the kinds of challenges we would have no access to.
The FCC could create a complaint and dispute review board operating in the same processes as other agencies (USITC, FTC, etc) with administrative law judges and commissioners. Documentation, trained legal counsel options for defendants could be supplied if an individual could not afford do so. The FCC has some pluses; relationships with every telecom and ISP around the nation, expertise beyond most (let alone your lawyer), offers affordability, can review submitted evidence and validate any complainants data and verify its authenticity.
It wouldn't be perfect, but it could be better than the alternative, which is doing a Google search to find a good internet / copyright / defense lawyer and finding 'torrent file sharing lawyer specialist!' that just put up a website last week.
Have an alternative solution? Reader feedback is always welcome.
Next: The MPAA / RIAA are out of their minds..
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