Copyright Alert System Applies Nudge Theory to Prevent Naive Peer to Peer Network Users from Breaking the Copyright Law

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health,

A method
of monitoring copyright infringing P2P traffic meant to notify
users in real time that the content they are viewing has been
uploaded online illegally has been implemented by five of the most
important ISPs in the United States: ATT, Verizon, Sprint,
Cablevision and Time Warner. The system is educational, not
prosecutorial, it other words no one will be accused of anything in
a court of law. There are, however, some consequences in terms of
service reliability. The approach is different from the one
employed in 2007, when thousands of users got letters for
settlement from RIAA and some of them were accused of illegally
downloading copyrighted content. The current system uses a
variation of the nudge theory, providing
users information about the content they are downloading (who owns
it, why it should not be on P2P), and asking them to not use it. If
the infringing activity continues, the connection is throttled and
access to content limited. This is consistent with the ISPs Terms
of Service.

The intervention takes the approach
that although using pirated content on P2P is a form of breaking
the law, this behavior and its legal consequences are not clearly
understood by the users themselves. To redress such misguided
behavior the users are gently slapped on the the hand, so to speak.
This does qualify as a form of “libertarian
paternalism”, as proposed by Thaler and Sunstein
. As a
social scientific quasi experiment it is quite interesting and
worth following.

On the other hand, the
opposition to this mild form of hand slapping is as fierce as ever.
Hacktivists have “stuffed the ballot” of the YouTube video clip
presenting the system with a deluge of thumb down votes. More
important, they have mobbed the WOT
“trust” page
of the information site that announces the
system, The
Center for Copyright Information
, making it appear as a
site that violates child safety, privacy, and vendor honesty laws.
WOT is a popular tool, which can be loaded on any browser as a
plugin. It can warn users in advance of clicking on a link if a
site is likely to engage in illegal practices or to distribute
viruses  or spam. Sites are supposed to be rated objectively
and honestly by ordinary Internet users. Recently, hacktivists have
conducted mobbing campaigns by which sites that do not infringe any
of the rules mentioned above but are contrary to their political
views are falsely flagged as dangerous, preventing naive users from
visiting them.



Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

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