RIAA to drop mass lawsuits against filesharers

After five years and 35,000 lawsuits, the Recording Industry has a new strategy: cooperation with ISPs, who will cut off Internet access for users who keep sharing after multiple warnings.

In a stunning about-face, the Recording Industry Association of America is set to abandon its long-held policy of mass lawsuits against file-traders, opting for deals with ISPs that could eventually result in users' Internet access being terminated.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the RIAA has reached preliminary agreements with major ISPs. Under the deals, the RIAA would email an ISP when it detects a user illegally serving up music. The ISP would forward the note and ask the user to stop. After a few follow-ups, the user would notice his broadband service is appreciably less broad, and ultimately would simply be cut off.

Helping to transition the industry to this point has been New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office kept the RIAA and ISPs talking. "We wanted to end the litigation," said Steven Cohen, Cuomo's chief of staff. "It's not helpful."

But the RIAA will not be dropping the many, many cases still outstanding. Recording Industry v The People, Ray Beckerman asks:

Meanwhile, what about the unfortunates who are presently entangled already in these unjust lawsuits? Why won't the RIAA drop those cases too? If it was bad business to start them, why isn't it bad business to keep on throwing good money after bad? I hope consumers will remember this 5 1/2-year reign of terror, and will shun RIAA products, and I hope the legal profession will place a black mark next to the names of those "lawyers" who participated in this foul calumny.

For its part, the RIAA says the litigation strategy was a success. Chairman Mitch Bainwol, said, "Over the course of five years, the marketplace has changed," meaning people are much more shy about engaging in P2P filesharing.

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