It looks like the Recording Industry Association of America has deputized its first Internet Service Provider to police the Internet for music pirates.
CNET reports that AT&T is the the first to team with the RIAA following reports in December that the association would stop filing lawsuits and turn instead to the ISPs for help. Jim Cicconi, a senior executive at AT&T, reportedly told the audience at the Leadership Music Digital Summit that the ISP has begun issuing takedown notices as part of a "trial" to test customer reaction. CNET further reports:
Whether AT&T included any warnings that repeat offenders would see their service suspended or terminated is still unclear. Music industry sources said AT&T told managers at the top labels the trial letter would include strong language about the consequences of illegal conduct, but would stop short of mentioning service interruptions.
I'm no music pirate and have nothing to hide but suddenly I'm glad I switched from AT&T to Comcast a few months ago. If the RIAA hasn't been able to curb piracy with its lawsuits, then maybe it needs to try a few different approaches. But getting the ISPs to do their dirty work is just plain wrong.
When news of the RIAA's intentions surfaced late last year, we heard the story of the owner of a small ISP in Louisiana who refused to play by the RIAA's games. Jerry Scroggin, owner-operator of Bayou Internet and Communications, told CNET last year: "They have the right to protect their songs or music or pictures. But they don’t have the right to tell me I have to be the one protecting it.”
I'm hoping that my ISP, Comcast, has Scroggin's attitude about the RIAA's latest tactics.
update 1: A report on Billboard.biz says that executives from both Comcast and AT&T have confirmed trial participation in the RIAA's program. (So, I guess it is a good thing after all that I'm not a music pirate.) The report names both Cicconi and Comcast senior VP of external affairs and public policy Joe Waz as having discussed their companies involvement during the Leadership Music Digital Summit in Nashville.
However, an entry on a Wired's Epicenter blog says that AT&T is now denying its participation.
I suspect there will be another update soon.
Update 2: Comcast, in an e-mailed statement, offered clarification of what it called some inaccuracies with the billboard.biz post:
Comcast, like other major ISPs, forwards notices of alleged infringement that we receive from music, movie, videogame, and other content owners to our customers. This is the same process we've had in place for years - nothing has changed. While we have always supported copyright holders in their efforts to reduce piracy under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and continue to do so, we have no plans to test a so-called 'three-strikes-and-you're-out' policy.
Also see: Why RIAA, ISP cooperation may deliver returns for both sides