The RIAA won't find ISPs so eager to cooperate with its new anti-piracy scheme


The RIAA’s new scheme to fight music piracy doesn’t sit well with small ISPs. Under the plan, rather than file lawsuit after lawsuit against John and Jane Doe, who may not even exist, the RIAA wants ISPs to cooperate with it by, ultimately, cutting people off from the Internet. That’s not going to happen easily.

Take Bayou Internet and Communications, a small, Louisiana-based ISP. Let’s say one of its users download/upload an RIAA-protected song from Gnutella or BitTorrent. The RIAA will send it a letter, with scant evidence—do you know how easy it is to spoof an IP address?—demanding that the user be warned. There’s a few problems with this scenario. One, again, what actual proof does the RIAA (and those it contracts to find alleged offenders) that this guy downloaded anything? Maybe he downloaded a plain text file called “Beyonce – Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).mp3” just to be a nuisance. Now you want the small ISP to track this guy down, for free? Matching an IP address to a person takes time, which, if cartoons have taught us anything, equals money.

It’s like, why should the (small) ISP be the RIAA’s secret police force? Let the RIAA do its own dirty work (if it must). And the RIAA wants, as an ultimate punishment, for the ISP to kick the offending customers off the Internet? Ha! That’s money out of the ISP’s pocket, money it cannot afford to lose. Since the ISP is merely a road—what travels down its path is none of its business—why should it be penalized for the alleged misdeeds of its customers?

And then we’re back to square one: how do you effectively combat music piracy?