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US ISPs negotiate with RIAA & MPAA on piracy enforcement

Posted at 24 June 2011 05:00 CEST by etdragon

It looks like ISPs are going to create their own policies to punish subscribers who participate in illegal file sharing.  Reports indicate AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast are the ISPs involved in negotiations with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).  Apparently the White House is also involved in current talks, but to what extent is currently unknown.

According to a recent CNET article, ISPs are looking to attack the problem of illegal file sharing with a “graduated approach.”  The approach starts with a written warning which the providers are calling “Copyright Alerts.”  After written warnings fail to be sufficient, the provider will escalate the matter to one of three proposed measures.  Those measures are (in no particular order of preference):

  1. Throttling bandwidth speeds
  2. Limited website access (this reportedly means access to only the top 200 sites until the illegal behavior ceases)
  3. Requiring the user to participate in an educational program about copyright

One would think that the final step would be to terminate the subscribers internet service, but apparently that is not being considered as a punishment.  The report indicates that the cost of the agreement would be shared by the service providers.  Whether that means implementation costs for punishments or costs for tracking illegal file sharing activity, or both, it remains unknown.

In speaking with an industry source, Ars Technica learned that the goal was not in fact punishment but instead “mitigation and education.”  The contact was upset by the focus on disciplinary action in the CNET article, stating that “the focus on enforcement is inaccurate.”  The source did reinforce that the list of possible disciplinary actions above is being discussed and that the Obama administration is involved in these talks.

Currently the White House has no solid litigation for file sharing, instead focusing their efforts on censorship and how ISPs handle user information.  It does make sense for ISPs and content providers to join hands in this though.  A rash of lawsuits because of file sharing have been aggressively pursued lately, including suits over illegal downloading of The Hurt Locker, and the RIAA getting a huge payout from LimeWire.  It stands to reason that the RIAA and MPAA would work with ISPs to try and deter file sharing or at least mitigate the number of downloads.

Ars was told that if something of interest comes from the negotiations between content providers, ISPs, and the White House, there would be indications in the next few weeks.  It will be interesting to see if the players here can come to an agreement, and exactly how they choose to enforce punishment for file sharing.

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