Art and Entertainment

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Adam Peck/PA Wire/AP

AT&T Will Warn, But Not Bump, Alleged Illegal Downloaders

March 30, 2009 04:00 PM
by Rachel Balik
The RIAA’s new graduated response plan asks ISP providers to help monitor illegal downloaders; AT&T says that won’t involve termination of service.

AT&T Will Warn Music Thieves, Not Terminate Service

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After years of unsuccessfully trying to sue illegal downloaders for large sums, the music industry’s graduated response plan is designed to reach illegal downloaders at the source: their Internet connection. CNET reports that AT&T, Comcast and Cox Communications have agreed to start working with the RIAA to warn users who engage in illegal downloading. However, a senior executive vice president at AT&T, Jim Cicconi, assured attendees at the Leadership Music Digital Summit that while AT&T will issue warnings, it would never terminate service based on the word of the RIAA alone. He said that if the RIAA wants anything more than letters sent, it would need to get a court order from a judge.

The RIAA announced the graduated response plan in December 2008; several legal and technical issues were immediately evident. ArsTechnica laid out the skeleton of the plan, as well as some of the most pressing concerns, such as what would happen to users who wished to contest the RIAA’s accusations. AT&T’s insistence that service will not be terminated without a court order partially addresses this problem.

ArsTechnica also conducted an interview with Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA. He claimed that the technology the RIAA planned to use was tested by researchers at the University of Washington and delivered no false positives.

Background: RIAA Enlists the Help of ISP Providers

In December 2008, the RIAA finally relinquished its long lawsuit war against illegal downloaders. Not only were the 35,000 attempted lawsuits largely unsuccessful, but they cast the RIAA in an unflattering light and, as The Wall Street Journal wryly notes, included suits against, “several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.” The RIAA subsequently entered into negotiations with several ISP providers and began to hash out agreements whereby ISP servers would send warning letters and e-mails to customers who appeared to be engaging in illegal downloading.

The RIAA had been previously been considering various ways to incorporate ISP providers into its war against illegal downloading. In March 2008, Wired reported that he RIAA was hoping to get providers to add a surcharge that would have been used to compensate labels and artists.

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Reference: Leadership Digital Music Summit and Downloading

AT&T’s Jim Cicconi made his statements at the Leadership Digital Music Summit. The conference examines the developments of the previous year and evaluates the future of the industry.
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