The Recording Industry Association of America is ready to drop its long-reviled tactic of suing individuals who illegally download music - now it's going after ISPs instead.
The RIAA has brought lawsuits against roughly 35,000 people since 2003, according to a Wall Street Journal report, bulling ahead with litigation despite the public relations disaster it created and the fact that it had negligible impact on unauthorized music sharing. Now the association says it's taking a different tack: The group has apparently worked out preliminary agreements with major ISPs in the United States, under which it will contact those ISPs when it discovers their customers are providing music to others. At that point, the ISP will either forward the complaint to the customer in question or alert them that their actions are illegal and ask them to stop. If the behavior persists, they will receive one or two further warnings and possibly reduced access speeds, and could eventually have their service cut entirely.
The RIAA didn't say which ISPs it had agreements with, and added that it reserved the right to continue individual lawsuits against people in exceptional cases. The association says it believes this new strategy will actually reach more people, a major part of its overall strategy. ""Part of the issue with infringement is for people to be aware that their actions are not anonymous," said RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol. He said that the lawsuits had been successful in the past, claiming that piracy would be even worse without them, but that "the marketplace has changed" and new methods of combating piracy would be more effective today.
The new RIAA master plan sounds similar to one recently announced in France, which would see "persistent pirates" lose their internet access. But the French solution is legislatived, requiring ISPs to monitor their users for piracy, and would also establish a government oversight body which would monitor the ISPs themselves. And Eric Garland, president of consultancy firm BigChampagne LLC, expressed doubts that this approach will be any more effective than the lawsuits. "There isn't any silver-bullet anti-piracy solution," he said. "It has become abundantly clear that the carrot is far more important than the stick."
One more piece of bad news for anyone already entangled in the RIAA lawsuit web: You're not off the hook. The organization said that any lawsuits already underway would be continued to their ugly conclusions.