RIAA drops mass lawsuits, recruits ISPs to crack the whip

RIAA drops mass lawsuits, recruits ISPs to crack the whip

Summary: The headlines across the blogosphere make it sound like the Recording Industry Association of America has thrown in the towel and decided to stop going after music pirates on the Internet. That's not exactly the case.


The headlines across the blogosphere make it sound like the Recording Industry Association of America has thrown in the towel and decided to stop going after music pirates on the Internet. That's not exactly the case.

Instead, the RIAA is teaming up with Internet Service Providers to identify and, potentially, blacklist offenders from obtaining an Internet connection in the future. That keeps the RIAA from having to subpoena the ISPs for user information and instead puts the ISP into the hot seat to crack the whip on the customer. OK, maybe blacklisting would be an extreme, last resort after repeated warnings - but I could see it headed that way.

Still, something stinks when the ISP that I pay every month suddenly turns on me and climbs into bed with the RIAA. It's an ISP, not an ISI (Internet Service Informant). And the idea that ISPs would agree to take action - first, by reducing the customer's bandwidth and eventually discontinuing service and potentially blacklisting the customer - based on an allegation by the RIAA is deeply troubling. Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells CNET:

This is very troubling. Creating lists of people who can't get Internet access based on allegations of breaking a law that hasn't been evaluated in a court of law. It's good that that the (RIAA) wants to stop suing individuals but they should haven't done it in the first place. I'd be especially concerned if the music labels can get you kicked off one ISP and then arrange to get you kicked off others, or the creation of blacklists. That's certainly what our fears have been about private legal enforcement regimen.

Clearly, the 35,000 or so lawsuits filed by the RIAA over the last five years hasn't brought piracy to a halt, though the RIAA claims the suits did reduce the amount of piracy. Hmmm. I don't know that it was fear of lawyers that slowed the piracy as much as it was the innovation that brought new types of legal music-buying options to the stage. Remember: there was no iTunes or Rhapsody or anything else like that when the original Napster introduced people to the concept of sharing digital music files over the Internet years ago. Now, there are choices and it's clear by the business that Apple does with the iTunes store that there are plenty of law-abiding citizens out there.

As far as the ISPs are concerned, I'm increasingly becoming troubled by what they're agreeing to do - or at least considering. I understand that service providers want a fair share of the Internet pie. After all, they're providing the pipelines to the Internet. They're being forced to play traffic cop on the usage of those pipelines. And they're constantly being asked to deliver more capacity by customers who are also demanding lower rates. But should they really be resorting to things like Deep Packet Inspection as a form of serving ads or cutting a back-alley deal with the recording industry? What's next? A little extortion so they won't tell your spouse about those visits to gambling or - ahem - other taboo Web sites.

I don't blame the RIAA for wanting to curb piracy but can't some of that be done through education, rather than enforcement? Maybe the education campaign needs to reach beyond MTV and focus more on ESPN, Oprah and 60 Minutes, places where moms and dads are watching. And don't just tell them that piracy is wrong and that they should stop their kids from doing it. Tell mom and dad that the kids can get them into deep trouble by pirating music.

True story: I stopped to visit an old friend the other day and he happened to be "downloading some free music" on a P2P site. He's a pretty smart guy but not very tech savvy. He truly had no idea that what he was doing could have the RIAA on his case. Like so many other households, the Internet account is in his name but his teenage kids are the ones who installed the P2P software and showed him how to find music on the Web. I gave him a quick schooling and he was honestly surprised by what I told him about piracy and lawsuits.

I don't know if he'll stop swiping music off the Web. But he can rest assured that the RIAA won't bully me into coughing up his name and address.

Topics: Telcos, Browser, Enterprise Software, Legal, Piracy, Security

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  • I can't help but wonder...

    ...how much the RIAA is paying the ISPs to risk opening themselves up to lawsuits. I really can't see how an ISP can legally cut off someone's account based on the RIAA's say-so.
    • exacly

      The RIAA is a KNOW criminal organisation who commit crimes on a daily basis, using the money they have stolen from everyone to buy them self phony laws and judges (it seem to me that buying a judge is extremly easy in the US).

      The RIAA have no credibility of any kind, any so called proof they summit is shady at best.

      The RIAA (MPAA) is one of the most dasngerous openly criminal oreganistion in the world today. They have destroyed more lifes then any terrorist organisation ever did.

      Important point to remember: Never buy a CD or DVD from members of the RIAA/MPAA, doing is again the law in most countris, because supporting organise crime is illegal.
  • Time for honesty ...

    Your article is the typical dishonest (with yourself too), evasive, inconclusive, superficial, one-sided, wimpish claptrap which I have grown accustomed to in such debates. Can we cut to the critical issues please?

    1. All parties to the deal are greedy and fighting their own corner. The copyright owners have failed to pass on cost savings possible because all media has been digitised and can be distributed electronically. Looking at the breakdown for an iTunes song shows that the big institutions involved are still trying to hold onto the money. Content publishers want a free ride e.g. the BBC release of iPlayer and the like will overwhelm the existing infrastructure. The ISP's have sold a domestic bandwidth they cannot deliver if all users max out the service. Consumers feel ripped off by all corporations and their natural greed means they will steal if they feel this will go undetected. Its not 'that pretty smart but not tech savvy friend', its you and me: can we get real please? No righteous indignation about 'my privacy'. You are a natural born thief.

    2. The scale of piracy is such that the legal process cannot cope with it. This process itself is expensive, unwieldy and crap value. The only way infringers will stop is if the impression they are untouchable is removed. That means a legal efficiency improvement and rights reduction which will be very difficult, if not impossible, to negociate. Widespread rapid conviction would change public perception. (The only thing stopping your idiot friend from shoplifting is that he thinks he might get caught.)

    3. A technology attack by corporations is likely to fail. Did serial numbers, activation, DRM work? If DPI is employed then a new protocol will be developed by anti-copyright activists. Worse I think this is likely to speed the development of an impenetrable darknet. Note that the processing and network capability of all pirates combined is monumental. It might be a mistake to force them to get organised!

    4. Education. Complete waste of time. Take a reality check. Did your idiot friend know he was stealing. Come on, be honest. He thought The Beatles-Complete Discography was free? One of you is lying, or you are the idiot. You pander to your presumed audience here ... pathetic.

    5. I agree that the ISP-turning-supergrass solution is unsatisfactory. Ideally what is required is a new holistic solution which balances the interests of all parties. As the App??e advert says "this changes everything". Unfortunately the current incumbents don't realise it (or more likely are simply hanging on). I like a subscription service where I can download ANYTHING. The monthly rate will then be shared fairly between ISP( to fund the bandwidth according to usage like electricity) and the creator (his royalty). OK, the model needs to be more complicated than that! Curiously this means that ADOBE will receive only $10 for CS4 MASTER SUITE. However instead of 1M legal copies at $2K and 999M pirated they will shift 1B at $10. Could spell the end of M$ WORKS! [Actually I think greed would work in favour of the creators here ... when you can access anything you tend to grab more than you can use!]

    Until everyone starts being honest and works towards a fair solution (consumers pay more but can access anything, creators get a bigger slice, the network gets reasoanble funding, the RIAA get far less), the war will continue.
  • The RIAA isn't Government

    Some older engineers might not like the RIAA.
  • poor RIAA

    with your thinking, i think, the poor RIAA will soon need government bailout.
  • I guess these days everyone else is the Police, except the Police!

    This organization has WAY too much power.
  • RE: RIAA drops mass lawsuits, recruits ISPs to crack the whip

    Isn't the RIAA similar to the vigilantes of the late 19th century whereby they appear to have taken the law into their own hands, and in some States, possibly committed criminal acts? For instance, it appears that the State of Michigan has put the RIAA"s forensic agent on notice that a private investigator's license is required to gather evidence on file sharers. Gathering computer forensic evidence without a license in Michigan is a felony, with 4 year jail time. I for one intend to ask the Michigan law enforcement authorities to investigate possible conspiracy and criminal acts by the RIAA and their agents.
  • RE: RIAA drops mass lawsuits, recruits ISPs to crack the whip

    Several years ago I denounced a music piracy case caused by a NASA contractor and University of Maryland scientist/professor: Dr. Eric Vermote from France. This man used peer to peer technology to create CDs for third party distribution to his friends; the home computer lab he was using for his peer to peer activities contained a NASA computer keyboard and he was using his NASA based E-mail account to communicate with third parties about his amateur counterfeit CDs. NASA and the FBI did not take the case seriously and no legal action was taken against Dr. Eric Vermote to my knowledge. The RIAA has a lot of work waiting in my humble opinion (FROM: Damien Bizeau - International artist, Promoter and Producer, France).