Last month, we marveled at how the ISPs effectively de-fanged ‘three-strikes,’ and replaced it with a far softer ‘six-strikes’ instead. Then again, the powerful oligopoly that controls broadband access in the US is better financed, better coordinated, and just smarter than the recording industry (and maybe Hollywood as well).
Which brings us to the Copyright Alert System, now going into effect across these United States. Big labels will flag accounts suspected of P2P swapping, and letters and education campaigns will soon follow. But accounts will be throttled or temporarily redirected, not disconnected. “Consumers whose accounts have been used to share copyrighted content over P2P networks illegally (or without authority) will receive Alerts that are meant to educate rather than punish, and direct them to legal alternatives,” Jill Lesser of the administering Center for Copyright Information (CCI) blogged.
But haven’t we seen this story before? Yes, we have: here are six fairly predictable outcomes of the ‘Six Strikes’ initiative…
1. P2P file-sharing volumes will decrease.
Actually, file-sharing volumes already are decreasing, but this will further the trend. That’s the learning from major markets like the UK and France, where most file-swappers are casual and easily scared by a threatening letter (or three).
What happens next is the far more difficult question.
2. Recorded music sales (on iTunes, CD, Amazon, etc.) are unlikely to increase.
That’s been the fallout from the harsher HADOPI in France, where marked drops in P2P volumes failed to create an upswing in paid downloads or CD sales. The reason is that consumers are in the midst of a far broader format and consumption shift, one that offers a range of complex options along the paid-to-free spectrum.
3. ISPs will not lose meaningful numbers of subscribers.
Broadband access is the fastest-growing and most lucrative segment for massive cable companies (ie, Comcast, Time Warner, etc.), and often the most important component of a triple- or quadruple-play package. These are extremely-profitable segments that spin billions every quarter, and a major cushion against cable cord-cutting.
All of which means that mega-powerful companies like Comcast and Time Warner are extremely uninterested in triggering user churn by creating an anti-piracy police state. A bone to the RIAA and Hollywood is one thing, widespread churn is another.
4. If there is an adverse impact on churn, the ISPs will take measures to further soften the program.
They don’t need guns, they have lawyers and lobbyists. It’s worked in the past.
5. Alternative methods of free, illegal acquisition, like lockers, direct site downloads, and private trackers will increase (depending on what is monitored).
Kim Dotcom says some of the biggest spikes on MEGA are coming out of France (and Spain). Any questions?
6. The effect on platforms like Spotify will be difficult to measure (but molded into a success story by groups like the RIAA).
The world isn’t Sweden, and it’s still unclear how markets like the US will embrace streaming platforms. Undoubtedly subscription-based streaming will improve, but how much of that will be the result of six strikes?