Someday soon, navigating the information highways of the Internet may be a lot like driving on an actual road. Act reckless or stray outside the letter of the law, and you could have your privileges taken away, or even be forced to attend copyright education classes. It's all in a deal being inked by ISPs and the various powers that be.
In almost all cases, an ISP does nearly nothing to restrict illegal activity on the net, unless, say, law enforcement gets involved and asks for a user's details. It's fallen on the shoulders of the likes of the much loved Recording Industry Association of America (or RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (or MPAA) to work to protect the groups' copyrighted materials.
In the near future, that could change, according to CNET's "multiple sources":
This has been in the works a long time. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the respective trade groups for the four major record companies and six top Hollywood film studios, have labored for years to persuade ISPs to take a tougher antipiracy position. Under the proposed plan, participating bandwidth providers would adopt a "graduated response" to subscribers who repeatedly infringe copyrights.
What forms could this "graduated response" take? Well, it sounds like ISPs will issue warnings, throttle network speeds, limit Web access or even require you "to participate in a program that educates them on copyright law and the rights of content creators." Sound fun, right?
Not in the plan, thankfully, is anything forcing ISPs to cut someone off from the Internet entirely, which is surprisingly lenient, given the decidedly draconian players involved.
We'll know more when this deal is less of a secret and more of an actual plan, but it sounds like it's in a pretty advanced state.