RIAA’s 3 strikes rules nowhere in sight

One year after the Recording Industry Association of America said it would stop suing illegal file sharers and instead try to kick them off the Internet, that plan seems further off than ever.

CNet followed up on the status of the RIAA’s so-called “graduated response” program, which sought the help of Internet service providers in cracking down on music piracy. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Big Music was hashing out agreements with ISPs, but those agreements appear to be just as far off today as they were in December 2008.


For a while, things seemed to be moving along. AT&T and Comcast were reportedly among the half dozen U.S. ISPs near agreements with the music industry. Their responses to file sharers would start with warning letters and gradually move towards disconnection.

But then, there was a backlash. While some ISPs have openly agreed to send warning letters, Comcast said it wasn’t considering termination of service. AT&T said it would only do so with a court order. Cox said it had yanked service from some customers, but only for less than 0.1 percent of people who received warning letters. Verizon sends warning letters, but has said that it won’t disconnect customers.

According to CNet’s sources, the RIAA’s boasts of agreements with ISPs was little more than a scare tactic, like the warning letters themselves. It was also intended to pressure reluctant ISPs into joining the bandwagon. In essence, the media got played.

Now, RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol is wording the situation very carefully. “Are we prepared to make an announcement that is broad in scope and cuts across ISPs? No. Are we engaged in significant discussions that we believe will ultimately prove productive? Hell yes,” he said.

But “significant discussions” don’t mean much when the company’s words proved untruthful a year ago. And with no talk of legislation, I don’t think we’re likely to see ISPs do the real dirty work of disconnecting their customers. Too bad the United Kingdom and France can’t say the same thing.