Top Internet Providers Cool to RIAA 3-Strikes Plan
Two weeks after the Recording Industry Association of America announced it had struck deals with top internet service providers to cut off unrepentant music sharers, not a single major ISP will cop to agreeing to the ambitious scheme, and one top broadband company says it's not on board.
The RIAA's announcement came as it revealed it was closing down its massive litigation campaign, which has targeted more than 30,000 individuals for allegedly sharing copyrighted music on the internet. Instead of federal lawsuits, the RIAA claims it would now rely on a series of accords it had reached with "leading" internet service providers, in which the ISPs have agreed to terminate customers the RIAA catches uploading three times, the association said.
But when contacted by Threat Level, none of the leading ISPs acknowledged any such deal. "We are not working with them on this," Verizon spokeswoman Ellen Yu said in a telephone interview. Verizon, based in New York, has 8.5 million broadband subscribers, making it the fourth largest ISP by customer base.
Comcast, the nation's second largest ISP, declined to comment, and referred inquiries to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. The group's vice president, Brian Dietz, said he could not confirm any deals between the RIAA and his association's members, but "we look forward to working constructively with the recording industry and other content providers."
The NCTA represents dozens of cable internet providers. Neither AT&T nor Verizon are represented by the group.
AT&T, the nation's No. 1 internet service provider with about 14.8 million customers, declined comment through a spokesman. Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Charter Communications did not return repeated phone calls for comment.
But the RIAA says it really has negotiated an enforcement deal with large ISPs. It just can't identify members of its coalition of the willing.
"All I can tell you right now is that we have an agreement on principle with several leading ISPs but not all, and the agreement on principle is confidential," RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth said in an e-mail.
The recording industry began targeting individual file sharers five years ago, suing about 30,000 alleged copyright scofflaws. Most of the cases settled out of court for a few thousand dollars.
Only one case went to trial, which was ultimately declared a mistrial after a federal judge said he erred when he instructed the jury that "making available" copyrighted music on the internet amounted to unauthorized distribution — or copyright infringement — regardless of whether actual downloading by others was shown.
The mistrial decision nullified a $222,000 jury verdict against Jammie Thomas of Minnesota for sharing 24 songs on the Kazaa file sharing network.
A Thomas retrial is set for March, as the RIAA said it was continuing with cases that were already in the legal pipeline.