Music Industry to Work With ISPs, Stop Going After Song Swappers

Slav Kandyba
LOS ANGELES — The Recording Industry Association of America last week dropped its policy of suing individual file sharers and announced that it is working with Internet service providers to shut out the worst offenders.

RIAA announced it stopped sending out new lawsuits and warnings in August and signed on with several U.S. Internet service providers to have them notify alleged illegal file-sharers that their Internet service would be blocked if they didn’t stop.

Some adult companies have made attempts to enforce copyright infringement in the same vain as RIAA in Europe, but it “hasn’t really taken off in the U.S.” because Internet privacy is more stringent, said Walters of Weston, Garroy, Walters and Mooney.

RIAA’s new strategy of working with the ISPs is preferable, he said, because it will cut down the “tremendous backlash against music producers and the artists involved” that resulted from the lawsuits.

“It’ll be interesting to see if the adult space adapts this business model,” Walters said.

Through lawyers, the RIAA has gone after some 35,000 people since 2003. Most of the lawsuits were settled on average for about $3,500, although the association's legal costs netted less money then what it cost to pay lawyers.

"We're at a point where there's a sense of comfort that we can replace one form of deterrent with another form of deterrent," said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman and chief executive. "Filing lawsuits as a strategy to deal with a big problem was not our first choice five years ago."

In late September, a federal judge in Minnesota threw out a $222,000 jury award to the RIAA and declared a mistrial. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis at that time said that he shouldn't have told jurors that having copyrighted music in a shared folder was illegal.

The decision came as a part of the case Capitol vs. Thomas, the RIAA's first file-sharing copyright infringement case.