A SMALL TOWN in the former British colony of Virginia is paying the price of not standing up to the MPAA.
Coshocton, which is in Ohio and does not have a great tradition of standing up to authority, decided that it would be a wizard wheeze to turn control of its municipal network over to the movie companies' cartel. After all it did not want any nasty 'pirates' in its fine little town, it wanted only plain decent folk who buy lots of gingham and bake lots of apple pies.
Imagine its shock when the MPAA forced the town to shut down its entire free municipal WiFi network because of a single instance of a single user illegally downloading a copyrighted movie.
We are not talking a big network here. Sometimes it handles 100 people a day during busy times. The closure of the network means that the Coshocton County Sheriff's deputies can't complete a traffic or incident report and out-of-town business people can't park in town and use their laptops to connect to the Internet.
Because the whole network has a single IP address, the town did not know who the pirate was, so the MPAA demanded that the network be shut off.
The case is fairly typical of what has been happening on a wider scale across the world. The MPAA and its music industry cousin the RIAA have been running around, lobbying about the perils of 'piracy' and screaming that they'll be forced out of business and Western civilisation will fall unless peer-to-peer filesharing is stamped out or everyone even suspected of copyright infringement is hounded, fined, booted off the Internet or all of the above plus criminalised.
Rather than engage their brains and tell the entertainment companies along with the RIAA and MPAA to go forth and multiply, politicians seem to want to roll over and give the entertainment industries everything they want.
France was prepared to switch off Internet connections to those the MPAA and RIAA said were 'pirates'. It was only when it was pointed out that this was against the constitution without due process of law that the government backed down, partly.
In the US, the RIAA has been litigious and made a fool of itself by dragging children, the elderly and dead people into court to face 'piracy' charges.
In other words we are not dealing with nice people, we are dealing with bullies and stick-up artists, much like common muggers except they wear suits. We elect people to protect us from such things. Society is supposed to collectvely stand up against the overly aggressive to see that weaker people can thrive and make their contributions as well.
The shutting down of a small town network is a microcosm of what the entertainment industry would do to the Internet if we give it control. Rather than protecting us, lawmakers are happy to give in and switch off whoever the RIAA, MPAA and their cronies point to. In this case it was a whole town, but why not all the users of an ISP, a cable firm, mobile carrier or telecom?
It is clearly time for the body politic to tell these clowns to go away. Any sympathy they might have attracted in their war against 'piracy' they have squandered by their greedy, self-serving, neurotic and paranoid behaviour.
If David Cameron promised that the next time he got an RIAA thug or MPAA goon in his office yammering on about Internet controls that he would tell the berk to get out or be thrown out, I might even vote for him. I might even vote for Gorden Brown if he told the music and film industries to sling their hooks. µ