CEA's Petricone: Three strikes could be too 'draconian'

Shutting off a consumer's Internet service for illegally downloading pirated movies or music might be too harsh of a way to curb copyright infringement on the Web, a Consumer Electronics Association lobbyist said today.

The graduated response or "three strikes" proposal would let Internet service providers slow down or cut off a consumer's broadband connection if they had illegally downloaded copyright-protected content. The strategy is popular in other countries, such as the U.K., and is being discussed in the U.S. And according to media reports, three strikes will not be part of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement still being worked out (details on that due out tomorrow).

Michael Petricone, senior vice president of government affairs at CEA, said his biggest fear is that ISPs could throttle or terminate service to an entire household because of a teenager's illegal downloading habit or that consumers wouldn't have adequate recourse to prove their innocence before losing Internet service.

"It's a little shocking to me that we've decided broadband is a fundamental right and crucial to modern daily life--that's what Congress believes--but at the same time you could lose it by downloading a Celine Dion song.

ISPs could disconnect consumers who'd done nothing wrong while trying to catch an illegal downloader, he said while speaking on a panel I moderated at the Politics Online Conference.

"You can catch a lot of tuna, but you'll also catch a few dolphins," he said.