ISPs to Become the Reluctant Sheriff?

December 28th, 2008 by · Leave a Comment

Is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) trying to win the award for Grinch of the decade?  In a WSJ article last week, the RIAA's latest plan to punish teenagers in the name of intellectual property was detailed.  Apparently, their last idea of suing 35K people in the last 5 years hasn't helped at all reduce illegal filesharing. (surprise surprise!)  The solution now?  Get ISPs to do all the work.  What do you think of the new plan?


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The RIAA says it has preliminary agreements with various ISPs in which they can email the ISP about a customer making files available illegally.  The ISP will then warn the customer, then if it continues they may slow their connection, then finally cut it off.  The ISPs have always hated this idea, one wonders why they are willing to play ball.  The only positive to them: reduced P2P traffic.  The  negatives:  another customer service layer, fewer yet angrier customers, and maybe the RIAA won't sue them.  Really, they get little or nothing out of this, so even if they agree to do it you have to expect that they won't try very hard.  And what happens when you entrust a job to a reluctant worker?  Not much of course.


But is it just me, or does this whole argument make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck?  If this plan goes through, everyone - yes everyone - is going to be watched when they are online.  If their activities are perceived to be a threat to the RIAA, they will be punished summarily and without apparent recourse.  Their best bet, calling up the ISP and begging, is already known not to work real well since you can't get a live person most of the time anyway. And once the RIAA has this, why not others?   It starts with just looking at filesharing, but there's little to stop it there.  If you try to turn the internet into a giant policing tool, you will foment revolution on a scale much larger than you started with.

Is it really a good business model to make everyone hate you so that they will buy more of your product in stores?  Don't get me wrong, I do realize there are important intellectual property issues here.  But this isn't a viable solution, it will make things worse.  There has to be a better way, one that works with the internet and not against it. Why should every ISP have to bend over backward and everyone in the country sacrifice their privacy just so that the RIAA can remain firmly grounded in the 20th century?

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