Major Labels

RIAA Find New Partner In Piracy Battle: ISPs To Begin Policing Web Traffic This Summer


In the latest effort to combat piracy, the RIAA and several ISPs (including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision) will begin monitoring web traffic this summer. Announced last week by RIAA chairman Cary Sherman, the system goes into effect sometime during the second quarter of 2012, as “each ISP has to develop their infrastructure for automating the system.”

Those systems involve major labels monitoring peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent for activities that fall under the category of copyright infringement. The labels will then report any user infringement activities to ISPs, who will then monitor those users’ networks. Once a user has been confirmed to be accessing pirated content, ISPs will then commence an "Initial Education step", where customers are formally notified that they're engaging in illegal activity. After one or two of these notices, they'll be issued another warning. Should none of those warnings prove effective, the ISP will then issue a Mitigation Measure Copyright Alert, which could potentially involve the throttling or restricting of the user’s connection (a total cut off is unlikely, however).

This RIAA / ISP pact is not something new, as they came to this so-called “Six Strikes” enforcement agreement back in June of 2011. This latest development is merely the implementation period coming into effect. However, these measures are by no means an all-encompassing crackdown on pirated content, as media downloaded using a VPN, from obscure torrent sites, or from media portals will likely be unaffected.

What do you think? Will these "education" measures help change file sharing habbits? 

Leave your comments below.

This post is by regular Hypebot contributor and independent music business professional & musicianHisham Dahud (@HishamDahud)

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  1. Why can’t they just spend money on investing in the future of music? So many minds are coming out that actually know how to sell the music in a digital age. They need to accept it at stop fighting a war they can’t win!

  2. Until they do win?
    Not a huge RIAA fan, but I’m interested to see how this pans out regardless…

  3. Well you can stop ISP’s from snooping on you and protect your privacy by getting an encrypted tunnel like and clearing evercookies (

  4. What will the false positive error rate be, and how will that spin politically? If a million notices are sent, a 1% false positive rate will mean 10,000 false accusations.
    (We have already seen press coverage of dead people and rap-averse grandmothers being sued, and a lawsuit is prepared with a lot more care than is likely for the allegations which will form the raw input to this system.)
    My expectations: either the scale of the notices will be so small that it will be similar to the lawsuit lottery and will have no practical effect, or else the scale of the notices will be so large that the number of false positives will produce significant outcry.
    Matching IP addresses, dates and times to individual users is a painstaking, error-prone process. It does not scale.

  5. Where in the Memorandum of Understanding are you finding this: “…(the ISPs) will then monitor those users’ networks. Once a user has been confirmed to be accessing pirated content…” I don’t see it.
    As I read the Memorandum, the ISP is simply supposed to warn users on the say-so of the content owners. The process used to accuse the user is a “black box” which is to be treated as a trade secret: that pretty much crushes “due process” right there. (Right to examine the evidence against you and face the accusers, and all that.)
    (Pretty interesting reading, that Memorandum.)

  6. Not sure I agree. Walow-T says below it doesn’t allow for due process. I don’t know too much about criminal law but monitoring internet activity like this seems like a wire tap for the digital world and I would think that would require some type of warrant.

  7. Hey wallow-T,
    Thanks for responding.
    The RIAA will be monitoring digital exchanges occurring across peer-to-peer networks. Once they detect an illicit sharing of copyrighted content, they will then turn to the user’s ISP, who will likely need to confirm the behavior before initiating their “graduate response” procedure. This is why I chose to use the word “monitoring” in the piece.
    You can read more on the pact here:

  8. I recommend reading the original memorandum which can be found at
    The ISP is to do no validation of the copyright infringement accusation sent to it by the copyright holder: “Upon receipt of an ISP Notice associated with a Subscriber’s account… the Participating ISP shall direct a Copyright Alert to the account holder.” No wiggle room there.

  9. ISPs have been resisting for years, in part because matching IP addresses/date & time information to individual customers is a significant cost, and because any such program is going to piss off ISP customers, especially the ones who are innocent yet accused. The White House (probably Joe Biden, the best friend the copyright industries have in government) did a lot of arm-twisting, according to the published rumors.

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