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VPN filesharing has become a safe haven for would-be copyright violators. VPN filesharing can be done without much risk of getting caught. So many use it to obtain free copies of rights-protected material. Online companies in the US used to get in hot water if illegal filesharing was done on their websites. And they were at a loss to prevent and stop it because they had no points of reference. But since 1998 this has changed. And VPN filesharing has come out in response to regulations and ways of catching copyright violators.
DCMA Section 512 – Safe Harbor
Section 512 of the DMCA provides a safe harbor for Internet companies. They used to be expected to monitor and control copyright violations. But they did not have the laws to follow, data on which to base what constituted a violation, or against whom it was being committed. This was a recipe for disaster because Internet companies could get in big trouble for not properly controlling violations. When the government began to understand their dilemma, Congress churned out Section 512 to limit the accountability of Internet companies. If they cooperated in helping copyright owners catch violators, they would not be blamed for the violations occurring on their websites.
The safe harbor agreement is considered very important to the US economy. It is even part of trade agreements. And compliance by Internet companies is considered part of the initial costs of setting up shop. This makes investors more comfortable when deciding where to put their money. Section 512 acts like an assurance to investors that increases the chances that they will support US based Internet companies.
VPN Filesharing and Copyright Violations
Copyright regulations and policing of infringements has become more difficult in recent years. The surge of VPN filesharing is a real danger to the safeguard that Section 512 provided. VPN filesharing is anonymous, making it very difficult for Internet companies to deter illegal file downloads. The problem is that copyright holders can determine that their material has been illegally shared. But neither they nor the online services that carry the materials can prove who has taken them. They also cannot begin to trace the incident because VPN filesharing does not leave any clues. VPN filesharing has therefore become a threat to the economy. It causes distrust among investors in the ability of Internet companies to maintain order.
VPN filesharing is anonymous because the VPN user’s real IP address is hidden. All that anyone can dig up is the VPN company server’s IP address. The data that is sent and received by the user is encrypted and therefore also inaccessible to anyone but the user. Illegal VPN filesharing is not encouraged or condoned by VPN providers. But VPN services are used for Internet privacy and security. This means that in many cases, the VPN providers do not monitor their users or keep records of their activities. So here we find that user privacy seems to cause a conflict. Users have a right to privacy which VPN providers exist to uphold. But this privacy also allows a malicious few to abuse it for personal gain.
Problems with DCMA
Internet companies are having problems with how to deal with infringement claims. They cannot decide which claims are fraudulent. And the DMCA takedown process is also being abused. Certain entities can claim copyright violation when their real purpose is to censor content they personally don’t like. Because the companies must comply to retain the benefits of Section 512, the situation is a ticking time bomb of First Amendment violations. Competitors are also abusing the provision to gain an edge in the market.
The subcommittee of the US House Judiciary Committee that handles copyright law and the Internet is reviewing copyright law this week. They hope to modify the framework of the law to address the problems faced by Internet companies and copyright holders.