updated 09:30 am EST, Wed January 28, 2009
ATT and Comcast Help RIAA
Both AT&T and Comcast should be the first Internet providers to give in to the RIAA's monitoring program, according to sources speaking with CNET. Three separate contacts allege that the respective DSL and cable providers have tentatively agreed to forward warnings when the RIAA believes its songs are being shared illegally and would volunteer to punish repeated offenders. These could include user-specific traffic throttling and even suspension or a permanent disconnection after multiple alleged infractions.
Neither AT&T nor Comcast has signed a formal agreement and could still withdraw, the insiders claim. Among the issues still remaining are financial compensation for the lost revenue from customers forced off the network as well the cost responsibilities for warning notices. None of the parties involved have been asked to inspect traffic themselves.
Both of the two companies as well as four other, unnamed providers are said to be worried about being discovered collaborating with the RIAA and may avoid committing to a deal to avoid the negative press and customer defections that would likely follow from the association. The RIAA has hurt its reputation through its previous tactic of collecting information independently and resorting directly to lawsuits, which in multiple instances have resulted in mistaken accusations as well as countering racketeering lawsuits that charge the RIAA with unfairly forcing customers to pay large settlements rather than contest threatened copyright lawsuits in court.
Neither Comcast nor RIAA is willing to comment. AT&T won't either confirm or deny its involvement but maintains that it believes "consumer education" is the solution to thwarting music piracy and that it wouldn't automatically cut off access to its customers.
Most American Internet carriers have until now been hesitant to actively cooperate in enforcing copyrights and often defend themselves with safe harbor, which relieves them from taking responsibility for piracy committed on their networks. France currently implements a "three strikes" system promoted by the RIAA's European equivalent, the IFPI, that imposes a strict escalating punishment system which disconnects users after three distinctly identified violations.