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Music industry to abandon Mass Lawsuits
December 19, 2008 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Music industry to abandon Mass Lawsuits. 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.

via /.
posted by Afroblanco (60 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yay!
posted by burnmp3s at 8:33 AM on December 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm going to cautiously say this is a good thing.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:35 AM on December 19, 2008


In celebration, I'm going to go buy that Deltron album now.
posted by jquinby at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2008


After years of of effectively destroying their reputations, the music industry is set to figure out less effective ways of destroying their reputations.
posted by Pants! at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2008 [14 favorites]


It was never a long-term solution--attorney's fees for them were going to be a problem. For those who settled, the record companies' fees would be waived as an inducement to settle. For those who fought and lost, judges aren't going to saddle a 22-year-old with $45,000 in debt at the beginning of their adult life.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is a Yay! really. At least when they were taking people to court there was a burden of proof that was required, this article doesn't seem to mention that any burden of proof is required for the ISPs to start cutting your bandwidth. Plus they are retaining the right to prosecute for high-volume sharers.
posted by mandal at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Excellent news. Kind of.

While I'm glad the lawsuits are stopping, I have grave misgivings about the new direction they'll take. Getting ISPs to fight file sharing could be a scary step towards a more monitored, less free internet.

On the whole the proposed initiative might be less of a futile and damaging PR nightmare for the RIAA, but it also threatens the exchange of data and information on a much broader scale. Here's hoping they'll be fought tooth and nail - not because people ought to steal music, but because we have a lot to lose as a society by monitoring or restricting the content of the internet.
posted by Muttoneer at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is a Yay! really. At least when they were taking people to court there was a burden of proof that was required, this article doesn't seem to mention that any burden of proof is required for the ISPs to start cutting your bandwidth.

But having your bandwidth cut is a lot different than having to go to court to defend against paying tens of thousands of dollars in penalties. Aside from the fact that it was a stupid plan to begin with, the RIAA could have continued to sue the same amounts of people after they strong-armed the ISPs into going along with this plan.

I don't think that this is by any means a 180 from the music industry's current hostile stance against its own customers, but if it means that random people don't have their lives turned upside down by these lawsuits then I'm all for it.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:47 AM on December 19, 2008


In a new strategy the RIAA will procure actual pirates from the coves of Somalia, who will launch an bloodthirsty invasion of your home and comandeer your iPod.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:48 AM on December 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


For analogy lets call your local ISP 'Vinny' and lets call the RIAA 'Pauly.' Now, Pauly decides that he doesn't like how you are cutting him out of what he considers his business, so he makes a deal with Vinny to put a bit of a squeeze on you. Vinny, with as much leverage as he has basically has the ability to make you do what he wants you to do.

Now lets straw hat this argument by considering the further implications of this: doubleclick, who we'll call 'Frankie' decides that he doesn't like you ignoring his advertising and by sites on which he advertises and pays for, without clicking on the advertising, you are cutting into his revenue stream. Now Frankie asks Vinny to help him out like Vinny helped out Pauly...

Reading the reviews at Amazon (Rocco), but not buying enough from him? Rocco works to shut you down, or to at least pressure you in a similar manner.

Geesh, Vinny has a great and forward thinking business model... Moreso, Vinny's bigger business buddies will know exactly how to keep your money in the family - so to speak...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't think this is a Yay! really. At least when they were taking people to court there was a burden of proof that was required, this article doesn't seem to mention that any burden of proof is required for the ISPs to start cutting your bandwidth.

This is a problem. Are they going to take issue with me sharing underground folk-punk records, or music by Ian MacKaye?
posted by dunkadunc at 8:55 AM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe this is the RIAA's attempt to go with economic tides, and shifting the blame from them to ISPs? They've laid off a few folks, and instead of suing everyone they can, they have a smaller group who focuses on ISPs. And then there's less public outrage on their heads when the ISPs block someone who is torrenting various builds of Linux or sharing the music they made.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:56 AM on December 19, 2008


Are they going to take issue with me sharing underground folk-punk records, or music by Ian MacKaye?

Well, somebody should take issue with you sharing the music of Ian MacKaye.
posted by MikeMc at 8:58 AM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is a problem. Are they going to take issue with me sharing underground folk-punk records, or music by Ian MacKaye?

I had a landlord once who was contacted by a realator who told him he could get tripple what we paid in rent for where we lived. Needless to say, we didn't resign our lease.

Your ISP is now able to offer a recording company a service - at probably a nominal fee. Its a service which theoretically only gains their revenue stream.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:00 AM on December 19, 2008


For analogy lets call your local ISP 'Vinny' and lets call the RIAA 'Pauly.'

Sweet! I totally understand stereotypes now.
posted by cashman at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I can see my ISP penalizing me for distributing my own album. And my provider is Comcast, I already know they're ridiculous and horrible about everything. Worse yet, they've signed some deal in my area to get exclusivity. So if they cut off my service, what's my alternative - moving?

This feels like the end of a slasher movie, after the proganist cuts off the crazy killer's head. That motherfucker's head is gone, right? But in the very last frame, the decapitated head winks at the camera. Cue credits and time to start making the sequel...
posted by naju at 9:04 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This opens the door to net neutrality problems, and further empowers ISP's, who will eventually become political entities, sort of like the press.
posted by stbalbach at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is why we need to end the local monopolies these damn ISPs have. Any time companies have a captive market, they suck Cellphone companies are only slightly better then cable providers.

When DSL first came out, there was a separation of the sale of the data and the sale of "internet service" As far as I know, though, those regulations have mostly gone away and phone companies sell both the physical link and the data link.

At least with cellphone service, you have the choice of a few different providers, if we ever get wireless network neutrality, people would be able to switch networks pretty easily.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey Kid! Help save the record stores. Stop all the downloading.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:14 AM on December 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


judges aren't going to saddle a 22-year-old with $45,000 in debt at the beginning of their adult life

Of course not, that's what the education industry is for.
posted by Grangousier at 9:19 AM on December 19, 2008 [21 favorites]


Worse yet, they've signed some deal in my area to get exclusivity.

Well, wireless broadband seems to be picking up steam or you can see if you can get "dry loop" DSL service.
posted by MikeMc at 9:21 AM on December 19, 2008


Seems like it will be easier to argue against their new involvement with ISPs on a conceptual level (net neutrality etc.) than to try and defend individuals who are "stealing" music. I'd count this as a tentative victory.
posted by Sam Ryan at 9:21 AM on December 19, 2008


While I'm glad the lawsuits are stopping, I have grave misgivings about the new direction they'll take. Getting ISPs to fight file sharing could be a scary step towards a more monitored, less free internet.

I think they were already trying to do this kind of thing anyway, on top of lawsuits. I'm not sure they are going to be more effective in getting ISP's to cooperate, simply because they are dropping the lawsuits. Or if ISP's were already cooperating (which some have been doing, in terms of sending out letters and such), I'm not sure this means ISP's are going to step up even more as the lap dogs of the industry, now that there's some nefarious role to fill.

I may be overly optimistic, but I'm hoping that ISP's will be pretty cautious about this kind of thing. Bad PR for the RIAA can easily translate into bad PR for ISP's, and they don't want any of this either.

But if I'm wrong about this, I will say that if I'm falsely accused, I'd rather be on the bad side of my ISP in terms of connectivity than forced illegitimately into an RIAA lawsuit frenzy, although both suck. Lesser of two evils here.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:26 AM on December 19, 2008


Basically what this is going to do is start a war of Computer Science skills between the likes of MediaDefender and the likes of the people who work on Bittorrent.

I laughed out loud.

(Not that there won't be various annoyance and problems, but I know which side I'd lay money on.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2008


This is a problem. Are they going to take issue with me sharing underground folk-punk records, or music by Ian MacKaye?

Or, for that matter, that you might be an independent musician yourself, and trying to upload your own music to reach a wider audience.

I don't know about the quality of US ISPs, but those I've experienced in the UK and NZ are so bad that I wouldn't trust any of them to get this right (my ISP can't even consistently get my girlfriend's name right; why should I assume they'll be able to send these emails to the right address, or, more seriously, actually process and deal with explanations from the users? Although on re-reading the article, it doesn't say anything about users being able to offer explanations anyway - just that, if they don't stop uploading, their service is throttled).
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2008


more effective ways to combat online music piracy

Suggestions:

-- preface each song with a spoken word equivalent to the Interpol warning at the start of videorecordings;

-- track unauthorized downloads to their IP address; send Christopher Walken over to silently stare in windows of downloader;

-- attach virus to music files ensuring that all songs are replaced by Lithuanian cover version of "Thank God I'm A Country Boy."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:32 AM on December 19, 2008


I guess maybe I give the RIAA too much credit here, but is it possible they are just luring us into a false sense of security, and will spring the trap once we are all back on LimeWire and BearShare or whatever?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:33 AM on December 19, 2008


The next step the RIAA will be taking is to use Predator drones to launch missiles at the residences of people pirating music. Sure they'll occasionally make mistakes, like targeting people who have too many itunes, or the basement studios of indie musicians, but hey, it's WAR out there people!
posted by happyroach at 9:48 AM on December 19, 2008


Today would be a good to to donate a few bucks to the EFF:

"But the news today is not all good. First, the recording industry will continue to press the thousands of pending lawsuits, presumably pushing for the usual four figure settlements. "

"More troubling is the news that the RIAA is pressuring U.S. ISPs into adopting some sort of "3 strikes" approach, similar to those it's been seeking in Europe."

"This means more music fans are going to be harassed by the music industry."
posted by four panels at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2008


Worse yet, [Comcast] signed some deal in my area to get exclusivity.

How does something like that even work? Does the city decide they won't be giving out permits for cable laying or something?
posted by niles at 9:58 AM on December 19, 2008


but is it possible they are just luring us into a false sense of security, and will spring the trap once we are all back on LimeWire and BearShare or whatever?

I seriously doubt it. The whole point of the lawsuit campaign was to make an example out of a small number of people to scare the millions of others into stopping. It's kind of like the doomsday device in Dr Strangelove, it's pointless if you keep it a secret.

I think they were already trying to do this kind of thing anyway, on top of lawsuits.

Yes, they were. The RIAA (and the MPAA) both sent out tons of cease-and-desist letters to ISPs and anyone else who provided internet access such as universities. The ISPs didn't really gain anything from letting the RIAA hassle their customers, so I don't think they cooperated too much with the requests. It's very possible that the RIAA is just ending their lawsuit campaign because it's not working, rather than that they actually do have better relations with the ISPs.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:00 AM on December 19, 2008


a question: can the RIAA track downloaders from Usenet?
posted by By The Grace of God at 10:05 AM on December 19, 2008


judges aren't going to saddle a 22-year-old with $45,000 in debt at the beginning of their adult life

Of course not, that's what the education industry is for.
posted by Grangousier at 5:19 PM on December 19 [4 favorites +] [!]


I'd fav this if I didn't have to enable googleapi's to do so. Just thought I'd let you know I'm laughing and crying at the same time.
posted by srboisvert at 10:15 AM on December 19, 2008


Weird. I just had the best idea; I'm thinking someone should get KMDFM to do a remix of the Lithuanian cover of "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." and get Christopher Walken to do the video.

This might be the kind of genius that they give out awards for. That or the kind of thing that gets you electroshock and some Thorazine.

You know, either way, I'm in.

posted by quin at 10:16 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dec. 20, 2008: RIAA announces new strategic partnership with Blackwater Worldwide.
posted by ryoshu at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


can the RIAA track downloaders from Usenet?

uploaders probably could be traced and tracked from the information in the headers - i think they would have to subpoena records from ISPs to get downloaders and even then it might be problematic as i've heard some encrypt this info - it might be easier for them just to sue the ISP for having the files on the servers

(and it's not clear that usenet providers actually enjoy common carrier status - i know they would argue that in court, but it hasn't been ruled on to my knowledge)
posted by pyramid termite at 10:31 AM on December 19, 2008


How does something like that even work? Does the city decide they won't be giving out permits for cable laying or something?

Many communities issue exclusive franchise rights for cable services. In my community you have a choice between Time-Warner and, well, Time-Warner. Of course AT&T U-Verse is available here now so I guess there's actually some choice now if you're looking for bundled services (phone,tv,broadband).
posted by MikeMc at 10:36 AM on December 19, 2008


I definitely agree that this sounds more dangerous than good. Net Neutrality issues, the ambiguities of what one is sharing, and the likely lack of recourse are all big problems with taking this up w/ISPs. Not to mention the whole ISPs-as-a-governing-body of our Internet connections in the first place.

Good points all around, guys.
posted by aliceinreality at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2008


As time goes on, I think that ISPs will see Internet access less and less as a means for users to transfer information, and more as a means for providers to deliver paid-for content to consumers. As that happens, they're going to view people transferring non-paid-for content (be it pirated, Creative Commons, a Linux distro, or whatever) as a threat to their bottom line, stealing bandwidth and attention from media companies' digital-delivery cash-cows.
In such a case, they might well start throttling or cutting off people who share a lot, whether they're doing so legally or no- they won't want an anarchic "share what you've made", they'll want a "buy what we provide".
posted by dunkadunc at 11:11 AM on December 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Sweet, now I can start downloading music again!

Just kidding! I never stopped.
posted by patr1ck at 11:27 AM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


For analogy lets call your local ISP 'Vinny' and lets call the RIAA 'Pauly.'

Sweet! I totally understand stereotypes now.


Stereotypes sound better in lossless digital.
posted by rokusan at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


*fires up Transmission, does jig*
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:39 AM on December 19, 2008


Hey Kid! Help save the record stores. Stop all the downloading.

It won't help - record stores sell RIAA products, which are ethically wrong to purchase because then your money is used to fund cluster-bomb extortion attacks on often innocent people who can't afford legal defence against the extortionists. This news that these attacks may stop might be good news, or might be PR BS. We'll see.

Until then, or until record stores have a way to cut out the RIAA, almost all their product is tainted and bad.

Last time I was in one, I really really wanted to buy a particular CD. I found it, had it in my hand, and was walking to the counter, when I began to feel dirty.

I stared at the CD for a long time. Then I put it back.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh my.... i must have missed christmas entirely, because it can only be april 1st.
posted by mrballistic at 11:56 AM on December 19, 2008


Not only do I think this is a terrible development, I don't think it's much of a change in tactic for the RIAA, as several people have already noted.

In college I worked for my university's tech support. Every so often we'd get copyright infringement cases—I was not allowed to touch them beyond referring anxious callers to our lawyer, but I did get to watch their progression and I had a few really informative conversations with said lawyer, who is hard-assed and intelligent.

Getting busted for copyright infringement is a three tiered process. First, the university receives a letter from the RIAA stating that a certain IP address has been violating RIAA copyright, and includes a second letter which is to be passed on to the individual associated with that IP address. In short, this letter says "we caught you breaking copyright, but we're offering you the chance to settle out of court for $3,000."

If the infringer does not respond, the RIAA subpoenas the infringer's personal information and contacts them directly. In this second, direct contact they ask for $4,000 dollars. The university (or other ISP) is no longer privy to the conversation at this point.

If the infringer still does not pay, they are then sued for one of the ostentatious and highly publicized sums with which we are all familiar.

From what I understand, the majority of students contacted in such a way—say, %80—settle on the first tier. A handful at my university did not. I don't know what happened with them in the end.

I take two things from this:

One, the bad PR from suing an old lady for $150,000 is balanced by the "good" PR that makes the majority of people settle out of court, as well as the ripple effect of, I assume, scaring their friends and family away from filesharing. The large lawsuits are just the intimidation backing up these smaller, much more frequent settlements.

Two, and most importantly here, the RIAA seems to want to deal with things extra-legally. They contact infringers at least twice before taking them to court. It's cheaper, easier, and they can do it en-masse. It's also, in my limited experience, very effective.

I can only imagine that some kind of deal worked out with the ISPs will make extra-legal enforcement even easier. Why sue two dozen individuals when you can consolidate your efforts and bring ISPs under your thumb? As a number of people have already noted, this sort of thing has already been happening. They're just putting more resources towards it.

Honestly, I don't care very much about music piracy as some kind of battle for consumer rights. Phrased that way, actually, I think it's pretty moronic. Given the willingness with which ISPs already bow to music and entertainment industry demands, however, I'm pretty unhappy with this news. It'll be good for people in the sort term, sure. In the long term, however, it creates a way to quickly and powerfully restrict and regulate the internet for reasons which would never hold up in court (or to public scrutiny, since ISPs are private businesses and can refuse service), but which will never have to justify themselves in a court or in public. How often do ISPs examine a request by the RIAA to kill someone's connection or website? How often will they examine such requests in the future, when they become more and more commonplace and the RIAA has established itself as their partner watchdog?

I didn't like the RIAA suing individuals in a court of law, but at least there was publicity and judicial oversight. And while it's better for me as an individual not to be sued (seriously. No one sue me, please), this is a bad thing for the internet as a whole. And I'm not going to complain about it because under this plan, I don't get sued.
posted by postcommunism at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I always think of this quote by ryanrs when this kind of question comes up. The internet is a package deal, one that distributes information and one doesn't get to decide the type of information.

If you get rid of torrents via throttling then YouTube, various terrestrial radio stations who stream, and legitimate movie viewing sites (like Netflix and Blockbuster) are going to lobby up (kinda like lawyer up, but skeevier). If net neutrality fails and you force all traffic to contain ads by Amazon, then we'll simply cut out ads from Amazon at the link-level. And after all it still won't matter, as the throttle or manipulation will be viewed as damage and routed around: TheOnlyCoolTim above, has it right: they're essentially engaging in a war with the hackers at this point, and they had a much better chance with the ISP and University combo.

They should be looking for a more competitive approach, one that's easier, more targeted and assured of better quality and standardization than current downloading. As it is, they're fighting their customer base to save their business model, which is lunacy.
posted by eclectist at 12:23 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmmm... You know, I definitely understand the suspicion towards ISPs, but what if...

(and I realize this is a big what if)

What if there were a new ISP that was completely dedicated to consumer privacy and freedom? Let's just say this ISP didn't want to play the RIAA's game. Is there anything stopping this ISP from doing whatever the hell they want, which may include not cracking down on copyright offenders?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:33 PM on December 19, 2008 [4 favorites]




They still sold 550,000,000 albums in 2008 and were still suing people? what a bunch of stupid greedy assholes.
posted by phylum sinter at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2008


Yeah, could it be because they have now federalized the enforcement of copyright laws?

Seriously. They got the FBI doing it for them.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2008


The ISPs will be able to detect certain types of connection patterns (e.g. bittorrent) even if the content is encrypted, but good luck detecting what's an "illegal music download". New protocols will emerge that masquerade filesharing as some other data stream.
posted by benzenedream at 6:06 PM on December 19, 2008


The ISPs will be able to detect certain types of connection patterns (e.g. bittorrent) even if the content is encrypted, but good luck detecting what's an "illegal music download". New protocols will emerge that masquerade filesharing as some other data stream.

What they are going to do is go to sites like the pirate bay, connect to the trackers, and see who actually sends them data. They're not just going to look at traffic patterns.
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on December 19, 2008


Interestingly,ISP filtering doesn't appear to be part of the plan.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:24 PM on December 19, 2008


The RIAA may be changing, but I'm not. I'm going to very happily go on avoiding buying their product.
posted by telstar at 3:31 AM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stereotypes sound better in lossless digital.

I don't use stereotypes any more. I've replaced them all with 5-channel-surroundsoundtypes.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:18 AM on December 20, 2008


they have now federalized the enforcement of copyright laws?

?

Who else would be enforcing the law?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:59 AM on December 20, 2008


Who else would be enforcing the law?

Old Gomer and Sherriff McGee, of course!

Gomer!

Get me my six-shooter! Weez gots some copee-right violaters to deal with!
posted by kaibutsu at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2008


This is going to shut down more file sharing than all of the lawsuits and fear of lawsuits ever did. The cable companies are going to start putting buffers on suspected downloaders and make it all but impossible to use their services too get free music. And since they have monopolies in so many markets, there's nowhere else to go. The net will catch lots of people not involved in file sharing, and I'm most curious to see how that affects the big picture - but subtley has never been a strong suit for media companies or the RIAA.

It's very easy for the cable companies to limit traffic to particular services (P2P sites, RapidShare, etc) and as of now they're not required to publicly share their exact protocol for curbing web use. They can feed it into the blanket "excessive bandwidth usage" clauses that many of the big ISPs have already added to their terms of use. The RIAA is already benefiting from some ISPs curbing P2P usage for bandwidth reasons, and now if they work together on this, the ISPs could focus even more on file sharing sites and services. When all of the lawsuits started I figured it would eventually end at this point. There will always be work arounds and alternate ways to file share, and they'll never stop all of it, but this is the road to knocking the largest number of people out of the game. And "not giving someone access to steal music" is a lot better from a PR standpoint than suing some poor single person. And a lot less visible.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:39 PM on December 20, 2008


Rock Steady writes "is it possible they are just luring us into a false sense of security, and will spring the trap once we are all back on LimeWire and BearShare or whatever?"

Maybe, if a significant portion of people ever left.

-harlequin- writes "It won't help - record stores sell RIAA products, which are ethically wrong to purchase because then your money is used to fund cluster-bomb extortion attacks on often innocent people who can't afford legal defence against the extortionists. This news that these attacks may stop might be good news, or might be PR BS. We'll see. "Last time I was in one, I really really wanted to buy a particular CD. I found it, had it in my hand, and was walking to the counter, when I began to feel dirty.

And that doesn't even account for the risk of getting a pseudo "cd" that won't even play in half my devices.
posted by Mitheral at 4:07 PM on December 21, 2008


At the time, the RIAA claimed not to have filed new lawsuits in months, but lawyer Ray Beckerman found lots of cases where that wasn't true. I don't know if there have been any since then.
posted by grouse at 7:55 AM on January 6, 2009


-- attach virus to music files ensuring that all songs are replaced by Lithuanian cover version of "Thank God I'm A Country Boy."

SEED PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2009


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