We recently covered some of the details of various "six strikes" policies being implemented by most of the large broadband providers in the US, noting that with Verizon's, it appeared that small businesses that offered free and open WiFi could get in trouble for doing so. TorrentFreak has followed up with Jill Lesser, the executive director of the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the organization coordinating these plans, and discovered that this impact on small businesses is not an error, and Lesser does not seem to see a problem with it, arguing that offering such open and free WiFi is a violation of the terms of service for most small businesses.
“In addition, the terms of service on such accounts do not allow them to be used to provide free WiFi or ‘hotspots’ so the hypothetical cafe owner offering public WiFi will not be subject to the CAS if they are following their terms of service.”
Similarly, she says that if it impacts small businesses or home-based businesses that use residential accounts, she doesn't see it as a problem, since those businesses shouldn't "allow" their employees to "engage in copyright theft." Of course, it's not theft, but infringement -- and it's frustrating that someone like Lesser would misrepresent these things.
That said, her cavalier attitude towards these very common scenarios, which will have real impacts on a variety of small businesses, is unfortunate and dangerous. The importance of a fully working broadband connection to small businesses todays cannot be overstated. To suggest that all of this is okay because they're not following an almost universally ignored term in the terms of service on such accounts seems to be dismissing things way too simply.
The end result of this is likely to be a lot less public and open WiFi at a time when we actually need much more open access. That may not matter to the RIAA and MPAA -- who still don't understand the importance and value of internet access -- but it matters an awful lot to the pubilc and a variety of small businesses.