Report: Comcast, AT&T Onboard With RIAA Anti-Piracy Plan

Last month, when the Recording Industry Association of America said it intends to work with broadband companies to sanction alleged pirates, the plan raised a host of questions.

One of the biggest was which service providers were willing to work with the RIAA. At first, the major ISPs denied wanting anything to do with the plan. But now, Cnet is reporting that two large ISPs -- Comcast and AT&T -- are on board with the initiative.

Neither company has made it official, but Cnet's sources say that both are going to forward takedown notices to alleged file-sharers and then impose sanctions including, potentially, service disconnection.

If so, it's a disturbing development for several reasons. First, the people identified as file-sharers by the RIAA aren't always guilty. In one of its more famous blunders, the organization sued a deceased grandmother.

Additionally, even those who transmit copyrighted content might be innocent of infringement in certain circumstances. For instance, if they're making fair use of the material, they're not infringing. But determining whether particular uses are legitimate isn't easy. Currently, judges struggle long and hard with that question when it comes up in court -- but at least judges are more accountable to the public than ISPs or the RIAA would be.



The RIAA has talked about some sort of procedure for people to protest their innocence, but it's not clear what that will involve. It's also not clear that people will realize that remaining silent in the face of warnings might work against them later, if they're targeted a second time.

At the same time, sophisticated pirates -- the ones who profit commercially as a result of infringement -- know how to encrypt material or otherwise stay one step ahead of investigators.

The RIAA's new plan won't stem the tide of record industry losses any more than its old strategy of suing individual file-sharers. The organization needs to devote its remaining resources to coming up with strategies that don't depend on making life difficult for music fans.

1 comment about "Report: Comcast, AT&T Onboard With RIAA Anti-Piracy Plan".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 28, 2009 at 7:19 p.m.

    Thanks for yet another opinion piece on the RIAA; it's been hours since the last one. I think this has got to be the 20th op-ed piece on why the RIAA is wrong because it can never be 100% accurate. Using that logic, we should legalize all crimes because some of the accused are not guilty and that police should give up because they make mistakes.

    You insinuate that unsophisticated pirates are OK because they don't profit "commercially" -- but the RIAA is not interested in HOW profits lost by recording artists are gained by others. The RIAA is attempting to stem the tide of ANY lost profits.

    The IRS does the same thing the RIAA is doing: Go after the low-hanging fruit that account for MOST of the lost revenue.

    Rather the criticize the RIAA ad nauseam, why don't you offer an alternative solution to the problem of lost revenue due to piracy by unsophisticated people?

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