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Banned from the Internet? One rule for sex offenders another for social media users?

Written by Samuel O'Toole on 28 June 2017

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Last week, in the case of Packingham v North Carolina, the US Supreme Court ruled that a North Carolina law, barring convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media websites, should be struck down. The unanimous judgement held that it would violate convicted sex offenders free speech rights; in fact they said it “impermissibly restricts lawful speech” and was unconstitutional.

So the question looms, why should pirate subscribers that have been subject to complaints from copyright holders be disconnected from the internet? Well, who better to argue the case than internet provider Cox Communications? Back in December 2015, a Virginia federal jury found that Cox Communications was liable for the copyright infringement of its internet subscribers. The two week trial found that because the internet service provider refused to disconnect the alleged pirates it was guilty of wilful contributory copyright infringement. It should be noted, the allegations of copyright infringement came solely from Rightscorp a piracy monitoring organization.

Cox Communications has recently filed an appeal to the decision, and the appeal it states that the Packingham decision is ‘directly relevant to what constitute “appropriate circumstances” to terminate Internet access to Cox’s customers”. Cox goes on, “And if it offends the Constitution to cut off a portion of Internet access to convicted criminals, then the district court’s erroneous interpretation of Section 512(i) of the DMCA — which effectively invokes the state’s coercive power to require ISPs to terminate all Internet access to merely accused infringers — cannot stand,”

One thing is for certain, the stakes are high, and one thing that is not so certain is the question of the Court of Appeals agreeing on the issue of free speech. 

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