The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has set aside its gavel and will stop prosecuting individuals for pirating digital music files, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Does this mean you should hop on Limewire and fill an iPod with illegal tunes? Not quite.
Instead of its usual strategy of pinning scofflaws and wringing them through the court system, the RIAA will shift the burden to ISPs. When it appears as though an ISP customer is downloading illegally, the RIAA will contact the ISP and it will now be the ISP’s responsibility to slap wrists via e-mail. If the actions do not cease, more e-mails will come; until finally, the alleged criminal’s Internet access is either watered down or shut off, or they see themselves in court.
This is a rather unexpected shift for the RIAA. Earlier this year, the RIAA upped its fines to $US1.5 million for a CD’s worth of music, which heightened the organisation’s fright factor. Then, in April, an Arizona court shot down the RIAA’s claim that storing music in a shared folder constitutes illegal file-sharing; just one nail in its coffin. Now the RIAA has put its hands up in surrender and backed away from the situation—for the most part. In the agreement, the RIAA held the right to prosecute the most egregious offenders: those who download an average of 5,000 to 6,000 songs a month.
Those concerned with privacy can also take a deep breath. Instead of demanding the identity of file-sharers in its proceedings, the RIAA will forward its e-mails to ISPs without requesting such information.
How effective will this new strategy be? The RIAA believes it’ll boost consumer awareness that “their actions are not anonymous.” We’ll have to see whether or not a few e-mails from ISPs politely asking for a cession of downloads will be more hard-hitting than a multi-million dollar lawsuit from one of the most reviled organisations in the United States.