What does the file sharing strikeout mean to us?

Countries all over the world are thinking about forcing ISPs to drop subscribers who share files three times. Don Reisinger thinks that's a huge mistake.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

In the ongoing war between file sharing and opposing organizations, we're constantly reminded by just how ridiculous some of the battles really are. Case in point: the "three strikes and you're out" regulation that has been flying around lawmaking bodies in Europe and now, possibly Canada.

According to the experts, lawmakers are desperately trying to find ways to stop file sharing and with the help of organizations that can't stand the thought of songs or movies being downloaded "illegally", they're doing everything they can to go after the wrong people. Simply put, the "Three strikes and you're out" policy stipulates that if an Internet user is caught file sharing three times, ISPs will be forced to terminate that subscriber.

"The policy - occasionally referred to as "graduated response" - received support last fall from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pressured the private sector to negotiate an agreement to implement the three strikes system," Michael Geist wrote in an article describing the rule. "The policy soon attracted global attention as the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia all announced that they were contemplating a similar approach."

As this policy spreads across the world, what can we expect from it? My guess: nothing.

How can lawmakers actually enforce this policy? Sure, it may want to compel ISPs to take a more active role in stopping piracy, but it runs directly against the reality of the environment.

Suffice it to say, ISPs aren't looking to lose subscribers and I would venture to say that few of them actually care what you're doing on their service as long as you're paying more to do it. Let's face it -- if Time Warner was truly upset with file sharers, wouldn't it have decided to just drop them instead of raising the price for more bandwidth use and continue to let them do what they want?

In other words, I simply don't see how this bill can stand. If ISPs -- the organizations that have single-handedly worked together with lawmakers -- can't find reason to support this bill and will undoubtedly question why they would do such a thing, can we really expect any US lawmaker to propose such a bill or see any ISP actually enforce it?

To make matters worse, if they were compelled to enforce this policy, ISPs would undoubtedly raise prices to combat the impending loss of valuable subscribers and even though you may not have shared a file once, you're subject to the ramifications of poor lawmaking.

And perhaps that's where the biggest issue with this regulations rests. Why should the innocent be forced to pay more for their connection to the Internet simply because lawmakers are trying to do everything they can to appease the entertainment industry to the detriment of all others? And let's face it -- anyone with half a brain knows it won't stop piracy.

As I've said far too many times before, the only way to stop piracy is to find a way to make people actually want to stop. Beyond that, lawmakers should stop focusing on the low-hanging fruit and focus on the huge piracy cartels overseas that have created a billion dollar industry out of making sure you have pirated copies of just about everything at your disposal. Why are they allowed to run amok?

If nothing else, Hulu has shown that sometimes, it's best to give people what they want for free and make up the lost revenue (and then some) through new means of advertising.

The world is changing and the way we consume entertainment is changing with it. How long will it take before the corporate world and especially lawmakers, wake up and see what's really going on?