The RIAA is set to halt its campaign of suing individuals for copyright infringement and is shifting to working with ISPs on something that looks and smells a lot like ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’.
For years the RIAA has effectively been a bad news story for the music industry, giving it unwanted bad press when it least needed it. Whereas there is a role for some high profile action against high sharing volume individuals, there is a way to implement the policy and a way not to. European organizations such as the BPI and local IFPI’s focused on education first and targeted, measured cases thereafter. The RIAA’s strategy probably didn’t differ that much in essence but it was light-years away in style. The RIAA almost seemed to relish the ‘bad cop’ role and insisted on pursuing individuals for amounts which were widely perceived to be unreasonable. Their heavy handed approach also caught many soft targets (e.g. 12 years olds, dead people (yes they really did)) and aggravated much of the legal community with their railroading.
Indeed the latter point may well be a key issue here. As I blogged back in October Harvard law professor Charles Nesson recently decided to take the RIAA on for their action being unconstitutional. Many legal minds expected Nesson to come out on top.
But whatever the reason, the move has been taken. The RIAA is facing up to the fact that suing individuals alone doesn’t meaningfully impact file sharing traffic, neither directly nor indirectly as a deterrent. The partnerships with ISPs is a tactic borrowed straight from the BPI in the UK. One hopes that the RIAA will be as shrewd as the BPI and do their best to offer the ISPs the carrot of licenses for compelling legal music services.
It won’t be plain sailing. ISPs have agendas that are often out of synch with content owners. But it’s a step in the right direction, as long as the strategy is underpinned with an ambitious licensing strategy.