May 13, 2009 | By Hugh D'Andrade

3 Strikes for Print: A Modest Proposal From Ed Felten

In the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," EFF board member and Princeton Computer Science Prof. Ed Felten has written an essay in response to the recently passed "3 strikes" legislation in France:

Yesterday the French parliament adopted a proposal to create a "three-strikes" system that would kick people off the Internet if they are accused of copyright infringement three times.

This is such a good idea that it should be applied to other media as well. Here is my modest proposal to extend three-strikes to the medium of print, that is, to words on paper.

My proposed system is simplicity itself. The government sets up a registry of accused infringers. Anybody can send a complaint to the registry, asserting that someone is infringing their copyright in the print medium. If the government registry receives three complaints about a person, that person is banned for a year from using print.

As in the Internet case, the ban applies to both reading and writing, and to all uses of print, including informal ones. In short, a banned person may not write or read anything for a year.

A few naysayers may argue that print bans might be hard to enforce, and that banning communication based on mere accusations of wrongdoing raises some minor issues of due process and free speech. But if those issues don't trouble us in the Internet setting, why should they trouble us here?

The whole proposal is worth reading. But we think Prof. Felten hasn't gone far enough. As Cory Doctorow has suggested, this wonderful idea should also be applied to corporations -- if the Walt Disney Company is accused of copyright infringement 3 times, it should also be banned from the Internet, don't you think?


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