Business
2:39 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Small Businesses Could Be Blamed For Their Customers' Web Piracy

Small businesses that offer wireless connections to their customers could be on the hook for illegal downloads that happen on their networks, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)

Record labels, movie studios and other industry groups recently struck a deal where participating internet service providers (ISPs) will issue warnings to customers whose accounts are allegedly used to steal content. The NFIB says small business owners could be charged, fined or worse.

The NFIB recommends that small business owners begin giving their customers a wireless password after purchase or blocking certain websites so that owners can prevent non-customers from stealing access to their connections.

Businesses will be allowed five warnings before ISPs could turn to "mitigation measures" to stop the piracy. This could mean reduced internet speeds, or having internet services temporarily blocked. Businesses have the option of paying a $35 filing fee and requesting a second-review.

However, Laura Hoke of the NFIB says the process is too time-consuming for small business owners who don't usually have staff to help with such problems.

Drew Dunavan, a manager at Caffe Medicci, agrees. Dunavan told KUT News that he doesn't have time to monitor the way his customers are using the cafe's internet connection, nor does he have time to deal with the fallout from his internet service provider.

"I gotta make sure my coffee's fresh, toilet paper's stocked and my employees are happy," Dunavan said. And that's most managers of a small business. You're putting in more than a 40-hour work week and your focus is your business."

Dunavan wondered if national agencies can't enforce piracy laws, why small-business owners should be expected to do so.

According to the Center of Copyright Information, content theft costs the U.S. economy $58 billion, 373,000 American jobs and $16 billion in lost employee earnings every year.