After suing more than 35,000 people for illegally sharing music since 2003, the RIAA has reached agreements with several ISPs to cut off subscribers' internet connections if they ignore warnings to stop, Wired.com has confirmed.
The RIAA is planning to replace its "subpoena, settle or sue" process that has been expensive for the music industry. It requires the RIAA to go through the courts in order to pressure those it suspects of sharing music without permission.
Instead, RIAA agents will seek out those sharing music without permission (usually by conducting its own P2P searches), and will e-mail the music sharer's ISP alerting them to that activity. The ISP will then either forward the RIAA's e-mail or send the subscriber a warning e-mail telling them that music sharing is not permitted.
If they continue to share, the subscriber will receive one or two additional warnings, after which the ISP will slow their connection. If the allegedly infringing activity persists, the subscriber may find their internet connection stops working altogether.
Jonathan Lamy, director of communications for the RIAA, confirmed to Wired.com that ISPs have signed an agreement to curtail music sharing, but did not specify which ISPs or the process the ISPs will follow. The story was reported in an unsourced article in the Wall Street Journal.
A highly-placed source close to the situation independently confirmed the labels are planning to abandon their lawsuit strategy. The source asked not to be identified.
Music fans may feel some relief that sharing music will no longer put them at risk of a lawsuit, assuming their ISP is one of those that has agreed to the plan. However, the biggest beneficiary of the new deal is the RIAA itself, which has seen its investigative techniques questioned and suffered key setbacks in court while paying extensive attorneys' fees to pursue cases through the normal legal channels.
Due process has been prohibitively expensive for the RIAA. The organization has long sought a more efficient way to exert pressure on suspected file sharers, and these new agreements will grant that wish. The organization saves money and can pressure many more suspected file sharers, all without filing a single subpoena.
Normally, the RIAA normally must: A) Note a music sharer's IP address. B) File a "John Doe" subpoena with his or her ISP (or university) to find out who was using that address when the music was shared. C) Begin settlement proceedings once the name has been determined through these legal avenues. D) Sue the alleged file sharer if they refused to settle.
Yet despite all this time and money spent suing file sharers, the RIAA has never successfully sued a single alleged file sharer whose the case went to trial.
The plan is similar to one the RIAA tried to employ with universities, in which the schools would forward letters from the RIAA to students it alleged were infringing. However, some balked at the plan, claiming that it circumvents due process.
"My understanding is that the University [of Kansas]' best practices viewpoint is to protect its students and show compliance to the rules, but not to act as a legal agent," said the school's director of university relations Todd Cohen last summer.
Contrary to what the Wall Street Journal reports ("After years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet," our emphasis), nobody has ever been sued for downloading music in this country, and I have yet to hear of another such suit being brought elsewhere. Instead, the RIAA targets those who are sharing music with other users -- not "stealing" it themselves, as countless publications have erroneously reported since the lawsuits began in 2003.
The RIAA plans to continue pursuing currently ongoing file sharing lawsuits.