Chicago (IL) – The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has launched its plan to recruit Internet service providers in a quest to combat piracy. It’s been confirmed that Comcast and Cox are cooperating with the RIAA in some form or another, though as of yet there has been no elaboration as to the extent. And while it has been reported by the Associated Press that AT&T is testing a system with the RIAA, AT&T denies that is the case.
The RIAA announced a strategy plan last December for the war against piracy. The organization decided they would begin relying on ISP cooperation. The decision was made that an email would be forwarded to the ISP when one of its customers was making music available for download to the public. The ISPs would then be asked to forward the note to the customer’s email, or alert the customer that it appears they are uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. This would be step one in a type of three strike plan. The second step would be to slow down the customer’s service. And the final strike would be termination of the customer’s Internet access.
Blog postings and reports by the media this week have fueled speculation that AT&T, Cox Communications and Comcast were now participating in this plan. The majority of information on the web came from unnamed sources and was packed with conflicting information.
So, who is participating and to what extent?
It was reported by CNET earlier in the week that AT&T was the first ISP to begin working with RIAA. They said Jim Cicconi, a senior executive at AT&T, had told the audience at the Leadership Music Digital Summit that the ISP was issuing takedown notices as part of a trial to test the reactions of its customers. The trial letter was rumored to include strong language regarding the consequences of illegal conduct, but would not mention service interruptions.
However, following this report AT&T responded claiming that in reality they are actually doing nothing. Jim Cicconi told USA Today, “Any suggestion that there is a deal between us and RIAA is just bogus.”
Cicconi claims they are testing a procedure for forwarding warning notices from copyright holders — music and software publishers, gaming companies, and movie creators — in an attempt to warn customers that they could potentially be in violation of copyright laws. Even though these notices are delivered from AT&T, the warnings are actually issued directly from the copyright holders. If a recipient makes the decision to ignore such warnings, the copyright holder is then left to determine what he or she personally will do about it.
That’s where AT&T’s action in the matter ends. Cicconi told USA Today, “We will never suspend, terminate or sanction any customer without some sort of legal process, like a court order. That’s been our policy for years, and that’s not going to change.”
In regards to participation in the RIAA concept and the three strikes rule, Cicconi claims that AT&T has never been approached in regards to this by the RIAA, “and if it did we simply would not do that.”
PC World claims that Cox has agreed to pass along RIAA warnings to its customers, and then work with them to end the problem. This is a process Cox has utilized for years with cases of copyright infringement, and to date it has rarely resulted in complete shutoffs to a customer’s service. Cox claims that less than one tenth of a percent of cases of infringement have resulted in account termination.
“Since the time we implemented our DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notification process, we’ve sent hundreds of thousands of warnings to customers, but have only had to terminate the accounts of a tiny fraction of them,” said Cox’s David Deliman to PC World.
Currently the company is not elaborating on what would cause a users account to be terminated or who makes the decision whether it be Cox Communications or the RIAA.
Reports throughout the week have suggested Comcast was involved in the plan initiated by the RIAA. Comcast claims that to date its policies and procedures have not been altered. “Comcast, like other major ISPs, forwards notices of alleged infringement that we receive from music, movie, videogame, and other content owners to our customers. This is the same process we’ve had in place for years,” says Comcast’s Charlie Douglas to PC World.
“While we have always supported copyright holders in their efforts to reduce piracy under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and continue to do so, we have no plans to test a so-called ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ policy,” he adds.
Traditionally ISPs have avoided getting in the middle of issues like these in an attempt to retain customers. The concept of turning off a customer’s service and the subsequent loss of income which results causes them to want to maintain a neutral ground.
Currently there is no evidence to support that a violation of copyright laws will cause coverage termination. Additionally, it is unknown whether or not companies will begin to enforce a three strikes policy.