July 09, 2011, 1:23 PM — Millions of small business owners may soon realize that their Internet service could be disrupted if they're wrongly accused of illegal file sharing or downloading under the "six strikes" plan entertainment media groups announced this week.
Initiated by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and other media groups, participating ISPs will shortly begin sending warning letters to users or companies whose accounts are allegedly used to illegally share files. ISPs will send a series of up to six notices to account holders whose IP addresses are allegedly used for the "online content theft of film, TV shows, or music" as part of the Center for Copyright Information initiative. After six notices, the ISP could begin a series of "mitigation measures"--which for all intents and purposes would likely lead to the disruption of Internet services on which most small businesses depend.
The announcement is the most important of its kind since the RIAA announced it was ending its litigation campaign in 2008 to thwart illegal file sharing. So now, instead of suing alleged digital copyright infringers, participating ISPs including AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will carry the stick intended to curb illegal file sharing on behalf of the media companies.
Here are four things that small businesses should be concerned about.
1. Losing Internet Access
The Center for Copyright Information does not come out and say that ISPs will suspend accounts. It also specifies that participating ISPs may even decide not to institute the "mitigation measures." However, possible steps that ISPs could take include reductions in Internet speeds and blocking access to Websites by redirecting users to a landing page.
If you or one of your office users is blatantly using an account to download movies and films, that's one thing. But what remains unclear is exactly how copyright holders will determine whether they think their copyright-protected content has been illegally accesses or shared.
During the RIAA's litigation campaign, many people were wrongly sued when hackers hijacked users' IP addresses. It is thus likely that hijacked IP addresses associated with file sharing will erroneously fall in the line of fire.