The RIAA has had an interesting few years. Their business model is dying and they have been fighting to save it by suing evil music thieves like single mothers on disability pay, deceased grandmothers and, most heinous of all, families who do not own computers.

Now the Association has backed off slightly and switched to a more cost-effective method; at least, they have offloaded the burden of identifying music pirates to the ISPs that host them. Rather than issue subpoenas to service providers for the names of their downloading subscribers, the RIAA has switched to sending lists of IP addresses and evidence to those ISPs it has partnered with. The ISP can then take measures into its own hands by:

  • sending warning emails

  • sending warning letters

  • reducing bandwidth/speed of violators’ Internet connection

It works for everyone except Internet users - the RIAA gets counter-sued less because it is no longer serving papers to innocent bystanders victimized by faulty IP records or the delays between court orders and identifying information (leading, for example, to charges against families who don’t even own a computer when in fact the former occupants of their home was involved in downloading). The ISPs get an excuse to rid themselves of customers who make full use of the bandwidth and network resources they are paying for.

I recently heard an argument that people who download or otherwise pirate a particular piece of software or music are unlikely to have purchased it at all therefore prosecuting them is pointless since they would never have been a customer anyway - the creator of the downloaded content hasn’t “lost” money. Where I come from, if we aren’t willing to pay for something for any reason idealogical or otherwise, we simply do not own it - we don’t try to source it for free. I’m not defending the RIAA, I just don’t understand the value derived from downloading libraries of music.