RIAA Fires Its Detective Agency, But Don’t Think That Means You’re Off The Hook

noah | January 5, 2009 11:00 am

The RIAA has informed the information-gathering company MediaSentry that it will no longer need its services for gathering evidence against people who share Norah Jones songs using outdated Internet protocols, a move that may be in line with the trade organization’s recent decision to stop filing mass lawsuits against people suspected of uploading files. In MediaSentry’s place, the organization has hired another company, the cutely named Danish antipiracy outfit DtecNet Software ApS, to hunt down those people who may be playing pirate in between bouts of wank mining. Will DtecNet work with the RIAA and internet service providers to track down and kill -9 the accounts of those people who may be unleashing discographies across the Internet? I’d say “maybe,” although there’s a bit of a catch—no one’s formally informed the ISPs that they’re supposed to be working as a team yet.

Digital Music News got in touch with a few ISPs to see how their antipiracy efforts were going, and Verizon’s answer amounted to a “Huh?”:

In fact, one of the largest ISPs, Verizon, told Digital Music News that a sweeping, stepped-up agreement with the RIAA simply does not exist. “We have agreements with some copyright owners, and if they believe that their copyright has been abused, we will forward that complaint to a customer without disclosing the name of that customer,” said Eric Rabe, senior vice president of Media Relations at Verizon. “We have a long history of judiciously protecting the identities of our customers.”

In other words, Verizon is not modifying existing agreements or subscriber protection policies that have been standing for years. “The RIAA seems to be out there discussing these agreements, but we’re not aware of it, whatever it is,” Rabe continued. “We understand that there must be respect for copyright, and that it is important for the development of content. But we need some sort of balance, and there are procedures and laws in the courts now that allow copyright holders to take action. If we receive a subpoena, we will respond.”

Verizon has revealed identities, usually under a direct court order, though the company has offered little more. “A wholesale short-circuit of the legal system, or a system in which alleged copyright holders are handled in bulk – we have resisted that,” Rabe noted. That also goes for a campaign that sends threatening letters to suspected infringers on a massive scale, one that would follow in the footsteps of a British multi-industry agreement.

AOL, Comcast, and Charter said that they would have no problem terminating the accounts of offenders (hey AOL, what if Jay Mariotti gets caught?), but they all denied that there was some sort of Voltron-like system in place in which the ISPs would band together with the RIAA to keep those people found guilty of uploading off the Internet forever.

Changing Tack, RIAA Ditches MediaSentry [WSJ]Any There There? RIAA Agreements Remain Flimsy, Unconfirmed… [Digital Music News]