Major Internet Service Providers in the United States, including Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, Cablevison Systems, and Comcast, have agreed upon a plan, backed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA.) The plan provides for participating ISPs to disrupt services for customers “guilty” of habitual copyright violations, starting with warnings, proceeding through bandwidth throttling and then to site redirections to “educational” sites addressing copyright infringement. There is little information about how the infringers are detected or found to be guilty, but that is not what I am addressing here. (Warning: Rant approaching) What I want to know is why ISPs can take the approach of enforcing copyright on behalf of the RIAA and MPAA, but cannot do the same or more to enforce things like the CAN-SPAM Act?
The United States is the largest source of SPAM in the world, and the ISPs listed above include some of the largest in the United States. (Disclosure: I am a TWC customer). If they are capable of filtering customers’ Internet traffic, detecting the downloading/sharing of copyrighted materials, and then altering the offenders’ traffic as a result, why can’t they do the same for spammers. How much easier would it be for a traffic analyzer to detect hundreds or thousands of SMTP connections coming from a home user than it must be to detect the download of a large binary, which then must be buffered and analyzed to determine whether it is a legitimate ISO or a pirated movie?
I am not advocating piracy; I think copyright holders should be allowed to enforce their rights. But I am distressed that organizations with deep pockets like the RIAA and MPAA can get ISPs to implement complicated filtering systems that can then enforce actions on individual customers, but these same ISPs are apparently not doing anything to prevent spammers from using their networks to send out millions of junk messages every day.
What I would like all of the readers who are customers of the ISPs listed above to do is this: use the contact form on your ISP’s website, or the contact email address, to send your ISP a simple question; ask them why they are able to detect and respond to copyright violations, but not to spammers. Don’t be rude – that never does anyone any good at all. Simply raise the question of why spammers are not being filtered, their bandwidth restricted, their web surfing redirected to sites educating them on the evils of spamming.
As individuals, we will never have the budgets of the MPAA and RIAA, so we may not get the attention of the executives, but if the customer service contacts receive several thousand questions, it might just get a little bit of notice. Ask the question, and if you actually get an answer other than from an autoresponder, post the reply as a comment to this article. Let’s see if there is anyone listening to the customers.