RIAA Gives Up on Piracy Lawsuits

RIAA Gives Up on Piracy Lawsuits

According to a report today in the Wall Street Journal, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has decided to give up on its practice of mass lawsuits as a way to deter illegal file-sharing. Instead the industry is apparently going to use a "three strikes" policy, similar to that under consideration in the E.U. and France.

The WSJ says that the RIAA is negotiating with ISPs over the "three strikes" policy. If the RIAA detects illegal file-sharing taking place, it will send an email to the ISP, and then:
Depending on the agreement, the ISP will either forward the note to customers, or alert customers that they appear to be uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. If the customers continue the file-sharing, they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether.
Very similar to the proposed European policy, with the additional throttling step, perhaps. C|Net has obtained the text of the proposed email (if they've gotten far enough to draft an email already, perhaps things are further along than we might think!).

However, the RIAA would still reserve the right to sue file-sharers, though they expect such lawsuits to be rare. On the other hand, litigation currently ongoing is going to continue. This must make those hit in the last round of RIAA warning letters feel really good.

It also must one wonder if the RIAA will continue to prosecute Jammie Thomas. Thomas is the only plaintiff to go to trial, and was initially convicted of file-sharing in October of 2007, but a mistrial was declared by the original presiding judge, who said he erred in jury instructions. A nice, good-faith gesture might be to drop the retrial, which has already been scheduled for next year. Naah, they'll never do it.

But this begs the question: nothing (particularly technology) is perfect. The RIAA has in the past sued a family with no computer, and even a dead person. So what happens to those false positives (FPs)? Is there a "statute of limitations" on these reports?

Meaning, you're reported once (FP). Five years later another FP. Are you now up against the wall or has the first one expired? And don't think that if you are falsely accused it'll be easy to fix it. Ever try to fix a credit report?

We wonder if coffee shops with free wi-fi are suddenly going to see an influx of downloaders. We're not really serious about that, but hey, we wonder if any free wi-fi hotspots have been sued over downloading yet.

Finally, the RIAA (and MPAA) need to get it through their thick skulls: just as DRM has not stopped game piracy, they're not going to put a lid on file-sharing. As the EFF notes, estimates are that 20% of Americans are active file-sharers.

The industry needs to embrace technology, not fear it (yes, we know they do need to make money). It's not as though anything they've done so far has corked the leak in the dam.
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Argh, Matey.

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I'm sure they have another fun bag of tricks up there sleeve.

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This doesn't change the fact that MediaSentry is not licensed to conduct private investigations in many of the previous suits. The RIAA's trying to "play nice" because they know they're about to have their whole legal platform kicked off from beneath their feet.

The first time I receive one of these letters by mistake I am going to the EFF and suing the hell out of them. Of course, I don't share music... so there is no question they will be bullying the wrong person with their inaccurate information.

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Hey... how come these lawsuits are still being filed? Oh, right... if the RIAA lies to courts, they probably had no problem lying to the WSJ.

Atlantic Recording v. Williams 08cv01710 W.D. Pennsylvania 12/15/08

Sony BMG Music v. Linus 08cv14413 S.D. Florida 12/11/08

UMG Recordings v. Gulledge 08-cv-00973-MHT-TFM M.D. Alabama 12/10/08

Warner Bros. Records Kelley 08-cv-02295-CLS N.D. Alabama 12/10/08

Sony BMG Music v. Van Ornum 08-cv-04205-JLH E.D. Arkansas 12/10/08

Interscope Records v. Tabor 08-cv-03068-JLH W.D. Arkansas 12/10/08

BMG Music v. O'Brien 08-cv-02244-HRH D. Arizona 12/10/08

Priority Records v. Easterling 08-cv-08131-PA-JTL C.D. California 12/10/08

UMG Recordings v. Ibarzabal 08-cv-08136-R-SH C.D. California 12/10/08

Interscope Records v. Doe 4 08-cv-01880-JBA D. Connecticut 12/10/08

Arista Records v. Doe 2 08-cv-01874-CFD D. Connecticut 12/10/08

Arista Records v. Doe 3 08-cv-01876-SRU D. Connecticut 12/10/08

UMG Recordings v. Burmeister 08-cv-02295-MPM-DGB C.D. Illinois 12/10/08

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The big issue I see with this plan is simple. E-mails do not always get to their intended recipient. Aside from spam filters and the ability to have multiple e-mail addresses per billable accout, the fact that I'm using company X to provide my connection to the internet does not mean I'm using their e-mail services. My credit card company had a question about a charge once. Instead of calling me or writing me a letter, the nitwits e-mailed me. I didn't find the e-mail about their "security" until after I'd already reviewed and paid the bill.

Besides which, I seriously doubt an e-mail warning would hold up in a court of law if somebody wanted to sue over having their broadband shut off. Most areas still only have one choice for broadband.

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