Apropos of a recent post, the latest edition of the Internet Law Bulletin, has an article (or perhaps, more accurately, MIPI Press Release) by Sabine Heindl (General Manager, MIPI) on the issue of suing individuals for downloading or uploading music, and MIPI’s efforts to have ISPs engage in ‘notice and disconnection’ activities. It really doesn’t add anything to the material I explored in my last post, although this paragraph highlights a fact well known to people like me or Alex Malik, perhaps less well known to the general population:

‘The Australian music industry is now in a position to notify ISPs of the IP addresses of copyright infringers, namely those making available copyright-protected music for download on their networks.’

Yes, that’s right. They can see you.

The article pushes the same line we’ve seen in the materials highlighted in my previous post: ‘ISPs should disconnect users’ when they are repeat offenders. What the article doesn’t do is answer all those questions that we still have about any such proposal:

  1. Why notice and disconnection for copyright infringement, and not other people wronged? Why couldn’t similar reasoning be applied to disconnect serial defamers, or spammers? (actually…..). The argument for special treatment is weak, and the argument for generalising disconnection in the case of any legal wrong has not been comprehensively made, it seems to me.
  2. Following on from that: what of the general implications of disconnection from internet service? Are we reaching a point, or have we reached a point, where internet connection could be considered the sort of critical utility that can’t be just switched off ‘like that’? Kevin Rudd would seem to think so, if any of his policy proposals recently are any indication.
  3. What about ‘due process’? Heindl’s article talks about ‘warnings’, and using disconnection as a last resort, but you’d want to be careful about that. Warnings – particularly those sent to email – can disappear…
  4. Often, more than one person uses an internet connection. What if there are 4 people living in a house? You can’t necessarily prove which one is doing the copyright infringement (although, of course, sometimes you can – see the Jammie Thomas case discussed in my last post) – and if you cut off the internet supply to such a house, aren’t you engaging in a kind of ‘collective punishment’? Ordinary principles of justice do not support collective punishment (another extreme version of such punishment is bulldozing Palestinian houses after one member of a household engages in a suicide bombing). And while you might say – well, it is everyone else’s responsibility to control the wrongdoing, and you might argue that in a family situation (parents need to control their children/teach them what is right), what of shared houses? what of shared houses where the infringer is a partner of a resident? What about where the wrongdoer is an adult, and there are schoolkids in the house? Punish the kids and deprive them of resources they need to do homework? ick.

Too many questions. Not enough answers.