Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Digital Music News Tries Unsuccessfully to get confirmation of RIAA "agreements" with ISP's; Verizon denies it outright

As journalists try to get confirmation of the Wall Street Journal's announcement that (a) the record companies have stopped filing mass lawsuits, and (b) the reason they did so is that the record companies have, under the auspices of the New York State Attorney General's Office, entered into "agreements" with the ISP's, the press is having trouble getting confirmation of the "facts".

Most recently, Digital Music News was the one asking tough questions and getting either no answers, or -- in the case of Verizon -- an outright denial of the RIAA's claims:

Any There There? RIAA Agreements Still Flimsy, Still Unconfirmed...

The following is a developing story, and information is being updated as it comes in. Please stay tuned as more information becomes available. Last updated: December 30th to include responses from United Online, Qwest, and comments from Verizon.

The RIAA is abandoning its strategy of suing individual file-swappers, and shifting towards ISP-level enforcement against infringers. That was trumpeted by major labels over the pre-Christmas weekend, but a closer look reveals rather flimsy deals with ISPs, at least for now. "We have agreements with some leading ISPs," RIAA executive Jonathan Lamy vaguely told Digital Music News on Monday, December 22nd, without naming names. "But not all. And the agreements are on principle."

That sounds rather unconvincing, and ISPs have traditionally resisted entertainment industry moves for greater subscriber enforcement. Over the past few years, the RIAA has frequently found itself battling access providers, especially over issues related to subscriber privacy and due process.

In that climate, will ISPs suddenly start removing accounts and issuing threatening letters? The answer depends on the specific ISP involved, according to a preliminary canvass conducted by Digital Music News. Ahead of the Christmas holiday, a number of US-based access providers were contacted, both through customer service and executive channels, specifically on the issue of warning letters and account terminations.

The results are still coming in, and many executives have been on a holiday hiatus. But service representatives at AT&T, Road Runner (Time Warner), United Online, Verizon, and Earthlink indicated that users account will not be terminated.
Complete article (expanding story)

A few days ago it was IP Watch which was unable to get confirmation.

And we were able to ascertain, through PACER and with a little help from our friends, that in fact the RIAA has recently brought hundreds of new cases. Additionally the announcement itself indicated that the RIAA still intended to initiate cases against large uploaders, which is not a very meaningful limitation since the RIAA has always claimed that all of its cases were only against people thought to be large uploaders.

In addition to learning that (a) the lawsuit campaign is far from over, (b) the "new agreements" with ISP's aren't "new" and aren't "agrements", and (c) the "new agreements" are NOT the reason the RIAA made the announcement but are merely a cover, I am also waiting to see what confirmation journalists will be able to obtain regarding

(1) the alleged involvement of the New York State Attorney General in brokering the phantom agreements,
(2) what New York law(s) the AG was enforcing,
(3) what violation(s) of New York law the AG was investigating, and
(4) what kind of agreement the AG made with the record companies.

Commentary & discussion:


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