Last December, the music industry's message to song writers, publishers, and musicians was that antipiracy help was on the way. Hopes soared after the major labels announced that they had convinced a group of telecoms to work with them.
Filing lawsuits against individuals accused of illegal file sharing was, for the most part, a thing of the past, said the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group representing the top music companies. The new strategy was to enlist Internet service providers, the gatekeepers of the Web, to issue a series of warnings meant to increase pressure on alleged pirates in what the RIAA called a "graduated response." Under the plan, those subscribers who refused to heed warnings could eventually see their Web connection suspended.
Six months later, the music industry is still waiting to hear from the RIAA which ISPs have explicitly agreed to work with the association. When the RIAA first announced its new antipiracy project, it didn't name partners. Behind the scenes, industry insiders assured the media that the group would disclose the names of partner ISPs "within weeks." Six months later, however, not one ISP has publicly acknowledged working with the RIAA on a "graduated response."
That there are still no announced deals--and there's no guarantee the RIAA can sign any of the major broadband companies--indicates that at best the big recording companies may have spoken too soon when they said broadband providers would help, says one ISP executive. Ironically, at a time when many figured the RIAA had finally hit upon a compelling way to go after music piracy, the association's copyright protection efforts may be more toothless than ever.
"(The RIAA) has tried various ways to turn ISPs and other intermediaries into their own Internet cops," said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group for Internet users. "What the ISPs appear to be saying is that this isn't our job."