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After years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault as it searches for more effective ways to combat online music piracy.Instead, the Recording Industry Association of America said it plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers making music available online for others to take.Depending on the agreement, the ISP will either forward the note to customers, or alert customers that they appear to be uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. If the customers continue the file-sharing, they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether.The RIAA said it has agreements in principle with some ISPs, but declined to say which ones. But ISPs, which are increasingly cutting content deals of their own with entertainment companies, may have more incentive to work with the music labels now than in previous years.The new approach dispenses with one of the most contentious parts of the lawsuit strategy, which involved filing lawsuits requiring ISPs to disclose the identities of file sharers. Under the new strategy, the RIAA would forward its emails to the ISPs without demanding to know the customers' identity.
Some major ISPs have apparently already agreed to take part in a graduated response program: Share once, and you’ll get a slap on the wrist. Get caught the third time, and your contract gets canceled.Mathew Ingram over at GigaOM thinks this is a bad idea because it privatizes copyright enforcement, meaning that alleged offenders won’t have any clear recourse when they’re wrongly accused. That’s true, and definitely something to be worried about, but it’s not exactly new. ISPs took on the role of copyright cops a long time ago; for some, the new agreement only formalizes policies that are already in place. And not much changes for the users, either. They can still get sued, despite the agreement. And yet, they will still continue to share music, and a whole lot of video as well.
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