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WP: RIAA’s new plan, cut off internet access of those “pirating”
Saturday 20 Dec 2008, 11:49
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The Recording Industry Association of America is taking a dangerous step with its decision to stop suing suspected music sharers and start cutting off their Internet access instead. While the discontinuation of the lawsuit practice has its merits, the move opens up a whole new can of worms — one that could have serious implications for our future rights as consumers of information.


The new plan, while ending the era of problem-ridden legal attacks, appears to circumvent the law and instead put the power directly into the hands of RIAA. The group says it will work directly with Internet service providers to go after people it believes are illegally sharing files. RIAA will notify an ISP, which will then warn the user and ultimately suspend or discontinue his access if a change is not observed. “Major ISPs” are said to be on-board with the idea.

Effectively, RIAA has turned itself into the sheriff, and your ISP into its deputy. Based on the same data gathering and user identification methods that have come under fire from the start, RIAA will now be able to get your Internet access limited or discontinued on its own if it for some reason flags you as an illegal filesharer. And I’m not the only one left feeling a little wary about that.

“This means more music fans are going to be harassed by the music industry,” saysFred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“The problem is the lack of due process for those accused,” von Lohmann continues. “In a world where hundreds of thousands, or millions, of copyright infringement allegations are automatically generated and delivered to ISPs, mistakes are going to be made. … Anyone who has ever had to fight to correct an error on their credit reports will be able to imagine the trouble we’re in for.”

In essence, the music industry is trading one questionable practice for another. Striking a deal to deem itself the judge and your ISP the regulator is not the answer — and it’s not going to win the war, either.

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