AT&T Begins Helping RIAA Fight P2P
March 26, 2009

Insists it won’t ever terminate accounts of accused file-sharers “without a court order,” but does admit warning letters do say it has the right to do so.

Jim Cicconi, a senior executive VP at AT&T, told attendees at a recent digital music conference in Nashville,TN that it has begun warning customers accused of illegally sharing music by the RIAA.

He said it was part of a plan to test customer reaction to the e-mail copyright infringement warnings which don’t threaten service termination, but do say it retains the right to do so.

“It’s a standard part of everybody’s terms of service,” Cicconi said. “If somebody is engaging in illegal activity, it basically gives us the right to do it…We’re not a finder of fact and under no circumstances would we ever suspend or terminate service based on an allegation from a third party. We’re just simply reminding people that they can’t engage in illegal activity.”

As for repeat for offenders?

“What we do is send notices and keep track of violations and IP addresses,” Cicconi said. “It’s our view that any stronger action has got to rest with the copyright owner…That’s what the courts are there for.”

So AT&T won’t disconnect repeat file-sharers?

“We will never suspend, terminate or sanction any customer without some sort of legal process, like a court order,” he says. “That’s been our policy for years, and that’s not going to change.”

Claudia Jones, an AT&T spokeswoman, stressed that it never shares personal information with the RIAA or other copyright holders, and merely passes along received DMCA notices along with a “cover letter” to the accused.

The cover letter apparently warns that an unruly household teenager may be to blame, or that their wi-fi connection is improperly secured.

Jones also noted that AT&T has no plans to punish repeat accused copyright infringers in any manner harsher than warnings at this point.

“We can’t assume that people are stealing,” said Jones. “All we know is that they are using a lot of bandwidth. We can’t be the police or the copyright enforcer…that’s up to the content owner.”

The RIAA, which announced last December that it was supposedly ending its policy of suing individual file-sharers and would instead partner with ISPs to fight piracy, was at the digital music conference of course and admitted it was working the ISP crowd.

“We’re pleased to be in constructive discussions with several ISPs,” said an RIAA spokesman. “We’re making important progress, and doing so in a manner consistent with everyone’s respective priorities. We’re grateful that some of the industry’s leading executives came to Nashville and talked through these important issues.”

The RIAA says its new anti-file-sharing plan is to go after pirates at the ISP level, but it seems without legislation forcing ISPs to disconnect file-sharers its strategy will be as ineffective as the previous one.

Source: AT&T Begins Helping RIAA Fight P2P