The MPAA vs. me

So I came home last night, couldn’t connect to my wifi and found this when I opened a browser:


(Right-click and open that link in a new tab if the image is all shrunk.)

So. I wasn’t downloading copyrighted works. And I don’t run any peer-to-peer software on my computers. And I sure as hell wasn’t clicking on any link that implied any guilt. But I did leave my wifi open and unsecured so I was fairly certain a neighbor had caused this. Here’s where it gets good…

I called Time Warner cable this morning. It always takes me about 3 calls and 4 arguments with their automated menu to find a human being capable of helping me and today was no different. So I was properly annoyed when I finally reached a person. I explained the copyright notice and the rep quickly said, “I need to transfer you to Tier 3 support.” So I got handed off to James at Tier 3 Support for Time Warner cable.

I explained to James that I was not downloading nor uploading movies or tv shows and that I wasn’t running peer-to-peer software. He asked about my wifi configuration and I said it’s open and unsecured. This was, of course, baffling. He proceeded to tell me that of course this was the cause, and here’s the doozy…

James of Tier 3 Support at Time Warner Southern California told me that the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled that anyone who leaves a wifi router unsecured is liable for any illegal activity that occurs over that signal.


So let’s recap:

1) Time Warner is allowing the MPAA to monitor traffic on its network to scan for any alleged downloads and uploads of copyrighted movies or tv shows.
2) Time Warner is shutting down the service of any individual accused of such activity without first alerting the accused.
3) Time Warner Tier 3 Support agents are telling people that the Supreme Court says their customers who leave their wifi open and unsecured are liable for any activity that occurs over that signal.

I asked James if he could direct me to this Supreme Court decision. He could not. But he was confident that it was 4 or 5 years ago. When I mentioned this to my attorney (Dad), he just said, “that’s bullshit.”

I told James that I was unaware of this and I would remedy the situation. He then started giving me a whole laundry list of reasons why I should secure my wifi. I told him leaving it open is part of being a good neighbor. He then told me that if Time Warner started capping my bandwidth and billing me… and I interrupted to say, I wouldn’t have any use for their service if they did that. He told me that to reinstate internet service, I had to click on the link on the MPAA notice that says “I am aware of this issue….” I told him I didn’t want to click on it but he assured me it just meant that we’d talked and I would be securing my wifi signal.

So after we hung up, I made the right decision. I called Time Warner customer service and canceled my internet service.

Now the real punch line is this: I discovered my signal wasn’t working when I opened my iPod and tried to access iTunes to buy a video. In a familiar twist on these agencies that supposedly represent artists suing the artists’ audience, the MPAA actually prevented me from purchasing copyrighted media last night.

So in a stab-in-the-dark attempt at stopping a pirate, Time Warner lost business, iTunes lost business, an artist I was going to purchase from lost business, the MPAA gained an antagonist and the artists who rely on those litigious, bullying agencies to “protect” them lost a lot more respect from me.