I’m making this post by request, because evidently I’m not the only one tired of seeing people freak out about this.
The Copyright Alerts System, or CAS, went into effect yesterday. For a group of people who spent months campaigning against SOPA and CISPA, this seems like bad news. How long, they say, are we going to let the government tread on our freedom? Surely we have to take a stand!
And while this does pose a few problems, I’m here to tell you that it’s not the end of the world.
First of all, the government had precisely fuck-all to do with it. It’s an agreement between copyright holders such as the MPAA and RIAA (as well as various record labels) and the five biggest ISPs, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner. This means that the White House petition going around would not have made a difference even if it had gathered enough signatures.
Also, there seems to be some confusion about what precisely it’s designed to do, and a lot of the attempts to describe it cross right into irresponsible fear-mongering. CAS is meant to cut down on illegal filesharing. It does this by paying attention to sites such as BitTorrent and various other peer-to-peer services, and tracking the uploaders of the most popular content, such as blockbuster movies.
The thing is, this is more or less how anti-piracy efforts have always worked. Going after the people who download the content is impossible simply because there are too many of them. So instead the copyright holders go after the people who are stealing and uploading the content in the first place. And no, you can’t go to jail for it because, again, this is not a law. It does make it easier for them to find and sue you, but they generally won’t even bother unless you’re a repeat offender. So really, this is nothing new.
There are various ways around this. CAS only applies to residential wi-fi networks, not commercial, so you can go to any Starbucks and get away with it by using their wi-fi. If you prefer to stay at home, you can also mask your IP address by using a VPN service such as ProXPN. This will dramatically slow down your internet connection, though it does have the added benefit of protecting you from hackers on the aforementioned public wi-fi networks.
I agree that this is probably the wrong way to approach the issue and I don’t like it any more than you do. All I’m asking is that you research the issue instead of running around scaring people. It’s really not that bad when you think about it.
So calm down, Chicken Little. The sky is not, in fact, falling.