MPAA, RIAA, Major ISPs Preparing ‘Graduated Response’ To Piracy

A partnership between the RIAA, MPAA and the major ISPs, which would see the latter taking action against infringing customers, has been confirmed. If final agreement is reached - a point believed to be as close as next month - ISPs including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon will begin taking increasingly severe measures against pirating customers.

As the Department of Homeland Security and ICE continue to seize the domain names of any site they believe to be engaged in infringement, wherever they may be, local approaches to illicit file-sharing are developing all over the world.

The mechanism preferred by the big recording and movie studios is the so-called ‘graduated response’ scheme, whereby Internet users are subjected to ever increasing punishments for their infringing behaviors.

Now, having faced resistance for so long, it seems that the MPAA and RIAA will get their way in the United States.

According to CNET, some of the country’s largest ISPs including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are close to striking a deal with Hollywood and Big Music to put in a framework of measures to progressively punish errant subscribers.

Although a final agreement is yet to be signed, plans are said to be “on track” and could be officially unveiled next month. The deal is believed to be structured as follows:

- Rightsholders track infringing Internet users and send notices to ISPs
- ISPs used this data to send warnings, called “Copyright Alerts”, to subscribers
- If subscribers fail to improve their behavior, further warnings will be issued

Eventually though, ISPs have agreed to get tough with customers who don’t heed warnings.

Sources quoted by CNET say that ISPs will be a given flexibility to select from a “menu” of sanctions, including throttling a subscriber’s connection through to limiting web browsing. One scenario would see the web almost completely removed, with access granted only to the top 200 websites. Other more gentle measures include copyright-awareness programs.

However, unlike the legislative changes already implemented in the UK, the range of sanctions in the US will not include the dreaded “3rd strike”, i.e complete termination of the subscriber’s account. Currently there is no mention of temporary suspensions either; they could prove a deal-breaker in this sensitive environment.

The agreements between the MPAA, RIAA and ISPs in the United States will be completely voluntary. The ISPs will insist that they are completely within their rights to amend their Terms of Service to accommodate such an agreement and will almost certainly do so quickly.

In March, during the House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet, it became increasingly clear that the US government would be backing voluntary agreements to deal with the subscriber end of infringement, rather than the legislative change approach favored for dealing with file-sharing and streaming websites.

“Voluntary cooperative solutions are a priority focus and we believe that, in combination with law enforcement action, voluntary actions by the private sector have the potential to dramatically reduce online infringement and change the enforcement paradigm,” said U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel.

“We will continue to push forward to encourage voluntary cooperative actions on multiple fronts. Our ultimate goal is to reduce infringement online so we will continue to assess our approach to ensure that it is as effective as possible.”

The costs of the ‘graduated response’ will be shared between the entertainment industries and ISPs, meaning that regular Internet subscribers will, as always, pick up the enforcement tab.

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