Save Music — Disconnect the Internet!

Lunatic proposals involving governments regulating Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and then forcing them to disconnect users suspected of performing illegal downloads are gaining traction in the United Kingdom, France and Australia. When these ridiculous proposals first popped up, I publicly flamed the manager of my favorite band. Then I went to town on the proposed UK enforcement policy.

Yet after watching the U.S. government over the past weekend help orchestrate a bailout of Bear Stearns (and by extension, all of the financial markets, at least for a moment), it makes sense that these same governments must intervene to save the music industry. After all, if I believe the music industry, the Internet and ISPs enable illegal downloads and that has singularly led to the downfall of the music business. Given these apparent facts, I am doing a political flip-flop and will actively support proposals to have governments force ISPs to disconnect users suspected of downloading illegal content. I love listening to music and apparently there is no other way to save it.

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To start, I would propose that governments immediately implement a “Three strikes, you’re out” policy for all users suspected of downloading illegal content. If you are suspected of doing illegal downloads your ISP will warn you twice and then disconnect your service. Your name will be placed on the global “No-Bits List” and you will forever be revoked from Internet access.

But let’s not stop there, because it’s possible that even if ISPs do implement this policy, they won’t act fast enough to disconnect the users that are destroying the music business. I therefore propose that all governments be required to actively monitor all ISPs within their borders. If the active monitoring shows that illegal downloads are occurring and an ISP is not acting fast enough to implement the three-strikes policy then the government should take more dramatic action, perhaps ensuring that the offending ISP’s IP address blocks are revoked and its domain names deleted from the global name servers. After all, if an ISP can’t help solve the problem then it should be put out of business.

If the policies that I propose above are implemented quickly and efficiently then I believe we can save the music business. We will have an Internet where ISPs control their users to prevent them from doing illegal downloads. If the ISPs cannot control their users then the ISP itself will be disconnect from the Internet. If we can disconnect enough users and ISPs then perhaps we can have an Internet that does not ruin the music business. Seriously, what else can be done to save music?

If you are reading the above and are shocked by my flip-flop, do not be alarmed. Of course the above policies are suggested with heavy sarcasm and I would never want nor expect governments to disconnect users or ISPs from the Internet. The shocking thing is that the music business actually believes governments will implement these policies. Using the power of government to prevent an economic meltdown I understand; using it to help save a business that has been overcharging consumers and mistreating artists while lining their pockets, I do not.

So, I will say this one more time — and I hope the music industry is listening. I agree that illegal downloads are hurting your business. I agree that they should be stopped — by law enforcement organizations — not the people who build Internet infrastructure. The Internet is an infrastructure that enables a myriad of services for all who use it; it was not built to enable theft and hurt the music business. Music industry executives need to revolutionize their businesses models to embrace, not reject, technology. Sticking your head in the sand and whining to governments about saving your business will only get you smacked in the rear end.