ISPs Surrender to RIAA?

The Lawsuits Are Over. An Era of Co-Operation Between ISPs and The Music Trade Could Begin.

Moses Avalon

Already 2009 promises to be another great year for the music business.

In case you haven’t heard, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has convinced ISPs to work with the music companies to address online copyright infringement constructively.  To read the story in Computer World or Yahoo, it’s been spun as the RIAA is changing its tune and has suddenly grown a soul because they agreed, in exchange for co-operation, to stop filing lawsuits. But this is more tech bias from a news media seduced by gadgets. Here’s the inside dope, from actual inside sources.

The Attorney General clearly siding with the RIAA, has urged ISPs to adopt a “graduated response program” that would include sending offending subscribers copyright infringement notices from the RIAA. The graduated response program would also provide for a series of escalating sanctions that, upon repeated notices of infringement, would include suspension of the account in appropriate circumstances.  Additionally (or in exchange, depending on your viewpoint) the RIAA has agreed to stop filing NEW lawsuits against grandmothers and other P2P enthusiasts, but continue the already existing ones.


Naturally, the tech-whoring media has gotten it backwards again! It’s not the RIAA that’s backing off or changing its tune, it’s the ISPs. Everything these articles are saying is supposedly a “new position” for the music business, has actually been the major label’s position all along.Working with ISPs was the RIAA’s proposal back in 2001 when the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) was negotiated and signed into law.

But the tech world reneged, starting with Verizon, who refused to give up the information of a rampant infringer to the RIAA.Verizon won in court, despite the fact that the law was on the side of the music trade.This new precedent spread like a cancer to become the public policy of ALL ISPs– that we don’t cooperate with inquires from content companies when it comes to giving out private info about our users–even the ones who are breaking the law.

Can you imagine if they took this stance with the Department of Justice?They’d be pummeled. But our little $8 Billion-a-year industry?The ISPs knew that the music industry didn’t have the war chest to litigate and anyway, everybody hates record companies, right?

So, what has changed as of this week?Why are ISPs suddenly deciding to play ball? It’s real simple: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And who’s our common enemy? The Man! One thing ISPs and the music trade have in common– we hate government regulation.In this case, that comes down to the big fear all IPS have: the government forcing their so-called “Net Neutrality” and their “dumb pipes” defense to regulation.


There is not yet a clearly-agreed-upon definition of “Net Neutrality.” In this context, it means the FCC (or some other Government agency) creating legislation or policy that would require the ISPs to treat all data the same.In other words, an ISP by law would not be allowed to treat the data of an email any differently than the data streaming from an MP3 or file from any other provider.

Since music doesn’t clog the pipeline with our small files, ISPs could not be bothered with complaints by the music trade to self-regulate. However, to appear neutral, they can’t say yes to one group (like movie or defense industries—who would kick their butts) and ignore the other (like the music industry).Thus the “dumb pipes” position is what they adopted. It suited their agenda to be able to say “data is data” and we can’t regulate it, we’re just a pipeline with no brain. The so-called “dumb pipes” argument is what allowed Verizon to win their argument against the RIAA even when they clearly violated the DMCA.

But starting this year, with agreements reached with mobile content companies and Network TV shows using the net for exhibition, ISPs are seeing their business model evolve and have decided that their place in the future is best thought of NOT as “dumb pipes”, but rather as content deliverer.To use an analogy, they no longer want the public to see them as the truck that delivers the film canisters to the movie theater, but rather as BOTH the delivery truck and the theater itself!

So, being “neutral” is the last way they want to position themselves. Movies and audio/visual content take up a great deal of bandwidth and ISPs want the liberty to discriminate between different types of data and charge more for those that are high profile– like movies.Under Net Neutrality/dumb pipes argument, they would not be able to, and to defeat the augments now brewing on Capitol Hill (arguments the ISPs initiated BTW) they need support of, guess who… Yep, the content industry.

That be us.

If they are going to be in the content business, they will need friends. Friends like the music industry and the film industry. Friends that right now they don’t have.

So, who is sucking up to whom?


The RIAA transitioning from one form of deterrents to another is not a “new position,” And they are not suckering up to anyone. The graduated response program is mealy the logical next step in the music business defending its rights. Now, instead of suing a household, the RIAA will simply notify the ISP. The ISP will then notify the user.Each warning will carry a more severe penalty, until the message gets through.Aside from being more civilized than lawsuits, it’s far cheaper for the RIAA.

Surveys have shown that 70% of people who received notices from ISPs stopped infringing on copyrights.That was a UK study. We’ll see how it goes over in the US.

So, to all the tech-whores out there spinning this as the RIAA finally “growing a soul” as one article put it, please shut up! You either don’t know what you’re talking about or you’ve drunk the ISP soup.Maybe you live in Silicon Valley and you’re trying to sell your house or something else that requires you to snuggle up to the Tech booty.The truth: business makes for strange bedfellows and this “new deal” (to which no details have been ironed out) is not a new position for the RIAA/major labels, et all.It’s one we’ve been jockeying for, for some time.

It’s the ISPs who’ve grown a soul – Music has always had one!

Mo out.

6 responses to “ISPs Surrender to RIAA?”

  1. Jay.Soul says:

    hi moses,
    very good to see your newsletter is now a blog!! much better and will definitely attract a new crowd of readers. MOSES2.0..
    Keep on telling us and them what is what, which is which and who does who.. This deal sounds like a very reasonable way to go about combating illegal sharing/downloading.

  2. Felix A Sanchez says:

    Moses has a blog? Awesome! Great article, I can always count on you to bring me the other side of the story.

    It will take a major social paradigm shift after years of programming and encouragement for users to engage in unauthorized downloading to turn the tables in a real way. This partnership makes sense given the circumstances, and should help.

    Intangible items and services are always difficult sells, which is why I’m praying for a resurgence in albums, CDs, etc. We need customers to once again want to appreciate everything goes into making great music . Technology can actually help bring that exposure. That also means we need to implement and enforce much tighter quality control going forward.

  3. JL says:

    This development bodes well for actors as well! If ISPs can distinguish between legal and illegal data being downloaded, then actors can be paid for their work being sold on the internet.

  4. Jeoy says:

    What in the hell are you guys talkin about?

  5. Lån Penge says:

    Guess this is the best option for RIAA, but I don’t think it will stop people from downloading music.

    The more technically minded users will find a way around the blocks that their ISP setup.

  6. Arleen says:

    Like L. Penge, the bigger the safe, the larger the thieves to carry it away. I don’t know the final answer to this one, but maybe it is worth pointing out that a great body of copyrighted materials have changed hands from the original creator to another owner. That being said, it is the RIAA’s joy to repackage certain music many times over a decade to sell it to a new audience using different mediums of delivery.

    Now that SOPA is on ice, maybe it can be better honed and narrowed in the near future to avoid too much disturbance of legitimate ecommerce. It was a close call.

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