by Evans Musau

House of Cards

A funny video on YouTube is just the thing to wind up the day. However, things in the near future might drastically change as access to entertainment content might get strained. From the advent of the dial-up connection to the GPRS internet connection, Kenya has seen an explosion and a flurry of activity in the cyber space, especially in entertainment. Aspiring musicians, comedians, actors all have pitched tent in the world of cyberspace, the reason- data traffic.

Currently, there are over 3 billion internet users in the world downloading over 290 billion Gigabytes of data in the first quarter of 2015 and streaming over 4 billion videos every day. The amount of content internet users go through in a day is astronomical.

As things move on the current situation is changing. The standard has always been, “Treat all data the same” Every packet of data requested by the user is to be given in equal measure by the Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, with numbers averaging over a billion users in the internet, why not cash in on the data? This is where data control meets net neutrality. Case in point, ISPs in America have been adamant on putting control on data in the internet. This means, for large amounts of data for one site to be disseminated one would pay for such a service. This in turn means that internet data traffic, for some sites, will be higher than others. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been at the forefront of advocating for net neutrality. However, the rules passed by the FCC to allow ISPs to charge content providers for higher data provision has been seen as going against the principles of net neutrality.

In brief, net neutrality is the treatment of packets of data without restriction as such the coining of the term “All Data is equal”. It is based on three major principles these are:
1. No Blocking
2. Transparency
3. No reasonable discrimination of data

The FCC in providing these rules means that the ISPs have power to block and discriminate data at will.

The burden then lies on the content creators and the consumer. Prime content means content at a price; a hefty price. Creators will have to then charge the subscribers to the content more money to get the next big hit. This means that famous streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Twitch and YouTube might start charging or increase charges to watch videos to generate income to pay off ISPs to get more data allocation. The access to such will be limited leaving the internet a deserted land.

The masses will have to rally up and find another way to enjoy that episode of “House of Cards”. Free internet TV and Movie streaming sites have started to crop up. This is not a new thing. Court cases involving underdog websites against colossal corporate giants have been seen.

Recently, in Showtime Networks Inc, Home Box Office, Inc., Mayweather Promotions, Llc And Top Rank, Inc. V. John Doe 1 D/B/A Boxinghd.Net, John Doe 2 D/B/A Sportship.Org And D/B/A “Carlo Magno”, And John Does 3-10, the court case granted the plaintiff an injunction to stop streaming sites from providing viewership to the Floyd Mayweather Vs Manny Pacquiao boxing match up. The issue in most of these cases is copyright infringement.
The need for entertainment content might just push a person to break the law.
“”[There’s] a real possibility that you will price some people out of the market for legitimate programming and into a market for ill-gotten programming because it will just cost too much or it will become clear they can pay a lot less for it,” Allen Hammond, director of the Broadband Institute of California, told the BBC”
It starts with minimal traffic on these free websites then escalating to a global mass of internet users watching highly rated movies and Tv episodes for a fraction of the suggested price or better yet for free.
This in turn might become a global protest; “Break the Law to change the System”.
“If people feel like this has gotten out of hand and power is controlled by too small a group of people [who think], ‘My bills keep going up and up, I’m not going to tolerate that, I’m going to violate the law’, the aggregate result is the law becomes unstable,” Mr Green of Rutgers School of Law told the BBC.

The Intellectual property in the works of art as such will be infringed countless times. This affects creativity and innovation of persons as investing in cyberspace will have no returns. The looming threat of global piracy may become a reality and may spell the downfall of Intellectual property in the arts as we know it.
The nightmare that is to pay for premium content in Kenya might seem far off but this might change soon. The effectuation of the rules set by the FCC might change the landscape of interet content worldwide as we know it. Countries in other jurisdiction might follow suit with the same rules. India for example has seen its fair share of net neutrality spat with key stakeholders such as Google.

In conclusion, this blogpost submits that turning global traffic away from legitimate video and streaming sites may encourage copyright infringement. If ISPs are left to control the internet and the data therein we might just see the fall of intellectual property in the cyberspace.