The battle for the internet rights of individuals versus those of big business have taken a turn for the worse with the latest battlefront opening up in the small US town of Coshocton, Ohio.
The Coshocton county has provided Wi-Fi for a number of years as a free municipal service but last week was forced to shut it down after a single copyright infringing download saw the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) threatening legal action.
Unlike proposed copyright laws soon to come into force in New Zealand, US copyright infringement regulations lack any provisions for protecting for ISPs from the activities of their users.
This in effect leaves internet service providers such as Coshocton county potentially exposed to legal fallout for any copyright infringing downloads done on their networks.
Because it's a free service with a public login, tracking down the persons who downloaded copyrighted material on the Coshocton network is at best tricky and will realistically be next to impossible.
Shutting down the network is expected to have impacts beyond inconveniencing visitors and the citizens of Coshocton.
According to statements made by the Coshocton CIO, Mike LaVigne to the Coshocton Tribune, The free Wi-Fi service is used by many people, including sheriff's deputies.
The whole sorry saga sets an ugly precedent for public internet access providers across the USA, with many like Coshocton County forced to consider either no longer offering free public internet access or investing in network management software to prevent copyright infringing downloads.
The economics of implementing such a capability however are likely to be beyond the financial means of many smaller internet providers, with LaVigne stating such software would cost the small, fiscally-challenged county $2,900 (£1,738) to implement along with $2,000 (£1,198) for equipment and $900 (£539.45) per year.
While countries like Finland make broadband access a basic human right, the world's most powerful democracy appears to be stuck in the past with clunky copyright laws that favour increasingly powerful organisations such as the MPAA.
Source : NZ Herald
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