December 22, 2008
Posted: 10:35 AM ET
Those of you who regularly share music over the Internet, legally or illegally, have by now heard the news that the Recording Industry Association of America is shelving the practice of filing lawsuits against most individuals it suspects are pirating copyrighted music online.
As CD sales decline, more and more people get their music online.
I say most because the RIAA still reserves the right to sue heavy file sharers or those who ignore warnings to stop. Now, the RIAA has a new tactic. It’s made agreements with several Internet service providers in which the ISPs will help them police alleged law-breakers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the RIAA will send a letter to an ISP when it thinks one of its customers is illegally sharing copyrighted music. The ISP will either forward the letter to the alleged offender or ask him to stop.
If the file-sharer ignores the warning, he risks having his Internet service terminated or his bandwidth squeezed to the point where it takes watching the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy before all 10 tracks of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” are illegally in his possession. Ouch.
So why the switch? The RIAA has sued some 30,000 people over the past five years, a tactic that's proved expensive and , critics argue, largely ineffective. I mean, have you stopped sharing your music library since the lawsuits began? I didn’t think so. And you’re not alone. While CD sales continue to decline, the number of folks sharing files online continues to increase.
This new deal makes me nervous because now, your ISP is poised to become an uptight hall monitor who narcs on every kid who smokes in the bathroom, instead of looking the other way even though it knows what you’re doing is against the rules. I think ISPs should remain neutral.
Nervous? Maybe you should be. Maybe you shouldn’t.
You could continue to share copyrighted songs online, hoping you’ll never be caught. At the very least, perhaps you should look to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation’s advice on how to avoid trouble.
There’s a decent chance you’ll never feel the RIAA’s tap on your shoulder. Plus, the way things are, I have no doubt word will spread quickly on how to cloak file-sharing so the ISPs and the RIAA can’t see what you’re up to.
The bottom line: Sharing copyrighted material online without the copyright holder’s permission is against the law. I quote Dirty Harry, “You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
- Stephen Walsh, CNN.com
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