We all know that there is a movement between the RIAA and MPAA to try to go on the aggressive against illegal downloading of music and movies.  Despite all the lawsuits, legislation, and even silly advertisements on television, the illegal entertainment digital trade scene is as alive as ever.  With laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act meeting unexpectedly large amounts of resistance last year, the powers-that-be are having to get more creative in their tactics to discourage a practice that has been going on since the invention of the Internet (or Internets, if you happen to be Al Gore).

Napster took illegal downloading to the Big Leagues, but rest assured it was going on way before then.

Napster took illegal downloading to the Big Leagues, but rest assured it was going on way before then.

Piracy and the Internet go hand in hand.  And technology has not helped matters any.  Everyone remembers the Napster craze.  A lot of people out there think that Napster was the beginning.  However, people were downloading music, movies, and software long before Napster brought it to the mainstream.  But it was a hell of a lot easier.  In the old days, pirates had to spend hours trolling Internet Relay Chat rooms hoping to find someone that had what they were looking for.  And then, there was a barter system in place.  It wasn’t good enough to just find someone with what you wanted.  You had to have something yourself that they wanted and thought was worth spending hours transmitting illegal data to get.  As high-speed Internet became the norm, the illegal downloading craze went to even higher levels.  Many pirates today will tell you that it is easier to download whole albums or discographies than to find an individual song because of the sheer download speed.  And now the advent of torrents has made it easier to get what you need when you want it than ever, and now, no one has to barter.  It’s all there for the taking, all day every day.

So, while the RIAA and MPAA wait anxiously on President Barack Obama (who has been a friend to the cause throughout the first four years of his administration) to pass some more under-the-table executive orders to get them what they want, they are coming up with new, innovative ways to try to discourage online piracy.  The latest attempt is dubbed the “Copyright Alert System” or otherwise known as “Six Strikes.”  The “Six Strikes” monicker might sound intimidating, but for now, this new “system” is a lot more bark than bite.

Several major Internet service providers have joined up to make this system happen.  These include heavy-hitters like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.  So, it’s easy to see that the vast majority of Internet users will probably have a chance at being affected by this.  Basically, a special firm called Mark Monitor scours the Internet 24/7 looking for people downloading copyrighted content.  Shouldn’t be too hard to find, with Mark Monitor estimating that they already witness 20 to 30 million infringements per day.  Anyway, Mark Monitor conducts its apparently legal surveillance and then sends tons of IP addresses to the ISP to be dealt with.

So, what are they looking for?  The RIAA and MPAA will decide that.  They will submit television shows, movies, and songs for Mark Monitor to keep track of.  So, you got caught?  Strike One.  What happens?  While the details are still being worked out, the first step will probably be a polite email from your ISP informing you that you might be doing something wrong.  Then strikes two, three, four, and five will feature increasing levels of seriousness and threats.  Finally, at Strike Six, armed FBI agents kick down your door, tackle you, beat you nearly to death, carry you out in handcuffs, kill your dog, and destroy your computer.  Finally, they burn down your house.

A little severe, eh?  Just joking, guys.  The real punishment for the damning sixth strike?

They throttle your Internet connection for two or three days to make you think about what you’ve done.

Advertising campaigns like this one did little to stem the tide of online piracy.

Advertising campaigns like this one did little to stem the tide of online piracy.

For the record, pirating this stuff is wrong and illegal.  You should probably stop doing it if you do now, not because of Six Strikes, but because King Obama will probably come up with something with more teeth soon.  In the meantime, if you are an Internet pirate, you may get some emails from your ISP if you keep this up.  And if you amass six emails like this, you may have to face the inconvenience of slower Internet for a few days.  Can you live with those tough consequences?  Are you pulling out your wallet with sweat dripping down your face as we speak, wanting to pay for all that stuff you downloaded the last twenty years?  Do you have nightmares of Lars Ulrich of Metallica beating you into submission with drumsticks and kicking you with his over-enthusiastic bass drum foot?

Well, here’s the lowdown.  If the RIAA and MPAA are calling the shots on what copyrighted content will be looked for, you can bet it will be those that they are currently making the most money off of.  So, just bear in mind.  If you’re downloading the latest Lady Gaga album that comes out tomorrow but someone already ripped it to the Internet from release copies, yes you might get a strike.  If you’re downloading Game of Thrones or The Dark Knight Rises, you might get a strike.  If you are downloading the unabridged DVD’s of Family Ties or The Cosby Show, you are probably gonna come out of this alright.  If you just downloaded Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View yesterday, chances are Mark Monitor doesn’t have your number.

Remember our favorite line.  Common sense goes a long way in everything, even illegal downloading.

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