Surfing through the AnimeSuki Forums (my favorite online community by far) today, I found this which I had missed yesterday. It seems that Comcast, a monopolistic ISP in the US, has been sending C&D (Cease & Desist) letters to random individuals for downloading episodes of certain unlicensed series. The list of series affected goes as follow:

Suteki Tantei Labyrinth (Studio Deen)
Gundam 00 (Sunrise / Mainichi Broadcasting)
Seto no Hanayome (AIC / avex / Gonzo)
Nagasarete Airantou (feel / Starchild)
Shugo Chara! (Satelight)
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (Studio Deen)

Out of these series, only Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai and Gundam 00 strike me as R1 licensing candidates. Of the remaining, there are very very dubious licensing candidates such as Shugo Chara! and Suteki Tantei Labyrinth. Besides, as you can probably see, many different animation studios are involved in the series.

I am not a lawyer nor do I live in the US, but as far as I understand it, there’s no reason to enforce the DMCA if the copyright infringement doesn’t involve distribution rights of a US company. It also seems pretty unlikely that all of those studios contacted a single American ISP at the same time.

So why did this happen, then? Well, Comcast has suffered legal threats due to their use of underhanded tactics to throttle BitTorrent traffic. However, these tactics weren’t probably applied to comply with the DMCA or to stop illegal file-sharing, but rather to grab a hold of their bandwith issues. From what I gather, Comcast is insanely popular in the US. With so large a userbase, it’s natural for bandwith issues to arise. P2P sharing (especially BitTorrent) is the worst offender, since it’s an easy way for any Average Joe to make use of the whole of their bandwith.

Since their past practices have been publicly condemned, they seem to have changed the scope of their approach: to scare unknowing users into cutting the traffic short themselves. And that’s what bothers me the most. Humanity’s greatest obstacle is not greed, it’s ignorance. Monopolistic companies (Microsoft comes as the best example in this regard) exploit the general consumers’ ignorance to retain control of their anti-competitive dominance. It’s important to inform the affected users, and to let them know what their rights are (for example, the right of being provided with the identity of the holder of the copyright they’ve violated, something Comcast hasn’t disclosed in any of their letters). Knowledge is the best weapon against FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) tactics.

A submission to the Slashdot Firehose has been made. It’s red-colored, indicating that it’s been voted up and is now probably awaiting editorial approval in order to appear in the front page. Once this happens, I’ll update with whatever news I gather from the Slashdot comments.