In its latest attempt to stop suing innocent and dead people for file-sharing, the RIAA has sent a letter to Internet service providers, who are often responsible for identifying the offending users, asking for their assistance. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of being contacted by the RIAA, ArsTechnica describes the ISP’s role in the crackdowns:
MediaSentry, the RIAA’s investigative arm, typically identifies suspected copyright infringers by IP address. One of the record labels whose music was discovered in a shared folder then becomes the lead plaintiff in a John Doe lawsuit. Via the discovery process, the ISP is then forced to turn over the name and address of the account owner who was using the IP address at the time of the alleged infringement. At that point, the John Doe case is discontinued and the label sues the individual fingered by the ISP.
As Ars Technica notes, the letter basically represents the RIAA’s attempt to avoid the “lawsuit” part of the process as often as possible, in part by having the ISP make the initial overture to the offending user. After that initial contact, the RIAA can use any follow-up communication as a positive ID–an idea that no doubt came to them after a Law & Order bender–after which they’ll press for an out-of-court settlement. And there’s another catch, too: If an offender’s ISP is willing to cooperate with the RIAA (by sharing log files and contact information for subscribers), that person can avoid a lawsuit with an expedited settlement and get a $1,000 discount on their fine. What a deal, right?
Anyway, there’s a lot more–including an admission by the RIAA that they’ve been suing the wrong people, but couched in a backpedal that seems to blame the ISPs for giving them bad data–here, and a Slashdot thread full of irritated commentary from net geeks here.