[JPL] AT&T, Comcast may help RIAA foil piracy

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Wed Jan 28 11:30:54 EST 2009

AT&T, Comcast may help RIAA foil piracy
Posted by Greg Sandoval
CNET staff writer Marguerite Reardon co-authored this report.

AT&T and Comcast, two of the nation's largest Internet service 
providers, are expected to be among a group of ISPs that will cooperate 
with the music industry in battling illegal file sharing, three sources 
close to the companies told CNET News.

The Recording Industry Association of America, the lobbying group 
representing the four largest recording companies, said last month that 
it had enlisted the help of ISPs as part of a new antipiracy campaign. 
The RIAA has declined to identify which ISPs or how many.

"We have also consistently said that automatic cutoff of our customers 
is not something we would do."
--Spokesman for AT&TIt's important to note that none of the half dozen 
or so ISPs involved has signed agreements. The companies are "skittish" 
about negative press and could still back out, said the sources. But as 
it stands, AT&T and Comcast are among the companies that have indicated 
they wish to participate in what the RIAA calls a "graduated response 

Typically, ISPs have stayed away from getting involved in copyright 
enforcement. The ISPs working with the RIAA will forward take-down 
notices to network users accused of illegal file sharing and in an 
unprecedented move, will establish a series of responses for chronic 
copyright violators.These responses will gradually grow in severity as 
the number of violations go up and may include suspension of service or 
even service termination. Each ISP will decide its own response.

An RIAA spokesman declined to comment, and a Comcast representative said 
he wouldn't confirm the company's participation. An AT&T spokesman said 
this: "While I'm not in a position to comment on the RIAA announcement, 
we believe that consumer education is a key component to enabling 
customers to find and use legal methods to access the content they 
want...we have also consistently said that automatic cutoff of our 
customers is not something we would do."

There are still plenty of details left to work out, the sources said. 
The RIAA has yet to address how it would help ISPs make up for the 
revenue they would lose by kicking people off their networks or who 
would pay the costs of sending take-down notices. The RIAA may disclose 
participating ISPs as soon as next month, according to a music industry 
source, adding that AT&T and Comcast are expected to be part of the group.

If AT&T and Comcast do join, the RIAA will have plenty of muscle to wage 
a new assault on piracy. The music industry said last month that it 
would no longer battle piracy by filing lawsuits against individuals. 
Instead, the big recording companies seek to create a new line of 
defense at the network level. And at least on paper, the plan is a 
potent one.

"Certainly (the ISPs) rolled out broadband based on movie and music 
downloads, legal and illegal and claimed (exemption from any legal 
responsibility), but at this point I think they realize being good 
partners with the content industry is a better idea."
--Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of AmericaBroadband 
providers are the gatekeepers of Internet access and have their hands on 
all the controls.

News that Comcast and AT&T would likely join the fight against illegal 
file sharing was greeted warmly by Rick Carnes, president of the 
Songwriters Guild of America.

"Perhaps we have a chance to rebuild the music business after a period 
of tremendous looting," Carnes said. "You can't have a marketplace 
without property rights. Certainly (the ISPs) rolled out broadband based 
on movie and music downloads, legal and illegal and claimed (exemption 
from any legal responsibility), but at this point I think they realize 
being good partners with the content industry is a better idea. I really 
want to salute them for doing that."

The move is part of the music industry's global campaign to sway 
broadband providers to join in protecting copyright material.

The entertainment industry has been trying to get laws passed throughout 
the world that would force ISPs to implement a "three strikes" policy. 
Under such a policy, repeat offenders would be given three notices to 
stop infringing on copyright before a service provider cuts off Internet 

Such a "three strikes" policy was implemented in France in 2007. The way 
it works is that ISPs issue warning messages to customers downloading 
files illegally. And if users ignore those messages, their accounts 
could be suspended or closed altogether.

Italy is considering a similar policy, according to the blog 
TorrentFreak. But in the U.K. a "three strikes" law appears to be losing 
support. The The Times of London reported Monday that passage of such a 
law is unlikely given that ISPs there don't want the added regulation.

The newspaper reported that David Lammy, the intellectual property 
minister, said a law that requires ISPs to disconnect users had too many 
legal issues surrounding it. That said, ISPs in the U.K. have agreed to 
work with the movie and music industries to help stop piracy. In July 
last year, ISPs agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the music 
and film industries in which ISPs agreed to send 1,000 letters a week 
for three months to combat users caught sharing files illegally, The 
Times reported.

Here in the U.S. ISPs have been reluctant to send letters or cut off 
service. And so far only in a couple of isolated agreements has an ISP 
agreed to help content owners police and enforce copyright infringement. 
In 2005, Verizon struck the stealth deal to win favor with Disney 
management. Verizon is building out a TV network and is striking content 
deals with movie studios and TV networks. In exchange for forwarding 
notices to suspected illegal file sharers, Disney gave Verizon the 
rights to transmit 12 of Disney's TV channels over its broadband network.

The problem with these agreements is how to enforce them. If notices are 
sent automatically, there's no way to tell if a user has received it. 
Representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation have reserved 
judgment until they hear the RIAA's plan detailed. They want to know how 
ISPs will protect users from being wrongly accused and whether ISPs will 
blackball users who have been kicked off other networks.

Another big question that EFF asks is how far will the policing efforts 
eventually go? Will network operators be responsible for identifying 
illegal content on their networks and then be asked to stop it from 
traversing its broadband pipes?

AT&T has previously stated that it's been testing technology that does 
just that. The company hasn't announced plans to use the filter 
technology. But the company has been working with members of the Motion 
Picture Association of America and the RIAA over the past year to figure 
out ways in which it can curb the flow of illegal content on its network.

Sources told CNET News that the RIAA hasn't asked any ISP to peer into 
packets or be responsible for monitoring their networks for piracy. The 
RIAA will continue to identify alleged copyright violators and report 
them to their ISPs

Dr. Jazz
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