ArtsWatch: Verizon Claims No Accused Infringers Lose Service

ISP spokesperson asserted one e-mail warning usually sufficient to deter content piracy
January 25, 2010 -- 10:28 am PST
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

On Jan. 20 Cnet News reported on its interview with Verizon Online spokesperson Bobbi Henson regarding the Internet service provider's treatment of online piracy complaints. She had seemingly confirmed service was discontinued for a small number of oft-warned customers but she celebrated the effectiveness of e-mailed warnings. (link) According to the Cnet report, Henson was quoted as having said, "We've found that we don't have to warn most people a second time. Most people stop, or they tell whoever is doing it to stop." Verizon does not limit how much a customer downloads and does not monitor customer behavior. It sends warnings only in response to copyright owners' complaints and provides outsiders with subscriber information only when compelled by a court order. Verizon's approach was noteworthy because it seemed to resemble the "three-strikes and you're out" policy many antipiracy advocates once thought would become common practice. Other ISPs have started limiting customers' monthly Internet traffic to levels likely to exclude the worst Internet pirates. The RIAA has struggled to enlist ISPs' help in fighting piracy, with what seems like very limited results. On Jan. 21 Cnet News covered Henson and Verizon's denials of the report's original claim. (link) Clarifying her position on the company's policy blog, Henson said, "This is not an automatic 'three strikes' graduated response program. This program...has not resulted in the termination of any Verizon customer's service." (link)

British ISP TalkTalk CEO Charles Dunstone warned on Jan. 17 on the Daily Mail's Mail Online Web site that if the costs of detecting online infringement were passed on to customers, this could reduce the subscriber base by 600,000 customers. (link) He wrote, "The reality is that when content becomes digitized it, in effect, becomes free.... people will always find ways to access copyrighted content free online. Film studios and music labels have to live with that truth and adapt their businesses." Billboard.biz reviewed competing efforts to estimate the cost of detecting infringement, brought to the fore by debates on whether to require it in the UK's Digital Economy Bill. (link) Studies commissioned by recording industry association BPI and the Creative Coalition Campaign respectively estimated lower costs — falling after the first year — than ISP BT's estimate of $41 per year for each subscriber.

The Federal Communications Commission received more than 23,000 comments by the Jan. 14 deadline for its Net neutrality and open Internet rules proceeding. The Copyright Alliance posted links to and summaries of many of the most prominent. (link) Consumer advocates argued for strong rules and expressed fear that exceptions will be abused by overzealous copyright enforcers. Intellectual property organizations want the FCC to adopt an approach that provides the leeway needed to address the steadily evolving methods used by online infringers. The RIAA's submission encouraged the FCC to explicitly enlist ISPs in the fight against infringing material online. (link) RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol said, "We foresee a future where ISPs are our partners, enabling new business models and delivering new content to fans in ways unimaginable today. We hope that any final rules established by the FCC reflect this forward-thinking reality and support ISP action against unlawful activity for the benefit of fans, creators and for the rich fabric of American culture."

On Jan. 15 the FCC ruled that wireless microphone users have until June 12 to cease operating in the 700 MHz band. (link) Manufacturer Shure praised the firm deadline and noted it hasn't sold equipment operating in that frequency since 2007. (link) Shure Senior Director Global Brand Management Mark Brunner said, "Complying with this firm date will still be challenging for some users, but we remain committed to making the transition as easy as possible for them under the circumstances. It's time for one final push to prevent interference with the new users of the spectrum." Consumer advocates Public Knowledge also praised the ruling. (link)

A British jury acquitted the operator of the Oink torrent search engine of conspiracy to defraud copyright owners on Jan. 15. (link) Since his activities promoting online content sharing were conducted openly, the government failed to prove that 26-year-old engineer Alan Ellis had dishonestly interfered with intellectual property rights. When the site was shut down in 2007, Ellis had been running it from his bedroom with 200,000 registered users, an estimated 21 million downloads and a bank account containing $300,000 apparently raised from donations. (link) A spokesman for British recording industry association BPI said, "This is a hugely disappointing verdict..."

 

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