Let’s put the RIAA in jail instead

By now, you’ve all heard about the latest fun from the whale turds, formerly known as the lawyers representing the recording industry. Instead of suing music customers, they’re switching to a very sneaky arrangement with ISPs in what’s being spun as an “abrupt shift of strategy” by an industry bleeding from public relations problems (oops) over certain helpless people they’ve sued.

The plan uses the ever-popular “three strikes” theme. The lawyers tell the ISPs when they think you’ve been bad; the ISP sends you a love note. Three times, and they cut you off. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch notes that it’s what’s beneath the surface that matters.

This approach is certainly better than threatening jail time, but it raises a whole host of new issues. For one thing, what happens when someone is wrongly accused? At least before they had recourse to a court of law. ISPs are not equipped to set up quasi-legal proceedings or hear appeals. It will be much easier for them to simply send out notices and turn off service, and that is what will happen.

Much has been written in the tech press about this shifting of responsibility, and all of it rightly notes that legal actions have not done a thing to help with the industry’s real problem — declining CD sales. Many of us wrote YEARS ago that this was a foolish gesture by a hopelessly antiquated business model, and there have been signs recently that at least some in the industry are making progress. However, that hasn’t stopped the copyright police from making themselves look bad.

But this action — and the agreement by the ISPs to participate — is an incredibly dangerous precedent for the Web and anybody who views it as more than a pipe for content (see Doc). The phone company isn’t used as a police department that sends out notices in your bill that, OMG, say “you’ve just done something you can’t do, and if you don’t stop, we’ll cut off your phone.” This will end up in the courts, where it will be trounced, and the RIAA lawyers will go back to their posh offices and send out their bills.

I am so happy the law isn’t God. Imagine how bad off we’d be if that were the case.

And for the RIAA? When do we start putting them in jail for being the pathetic nuisance they’ve become?

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