Verizon to Forward Warnings from RIAA, MPAA

Second largest phone company in the US agrees to forward notices of copyright infringement on behalf of the entertainment industry, perhaps hinting at a sign of things to come as ISPs slowly enter the world of content distribution.

Perhaps hinting a sign of things to come, Verizon Communications will reportedly begin forwarding notices of copyright infringement to its customers at the behest of both the MPAA and RIAA.

The moves is part of an unspecified “test” that will begin this Thursday, the test probably meaning to determine whether the benefits of helping protect copyrighted – and vis a vis possible future content distribution partnerships – outweigh the costs of angering customers.

“We recognize the importance of copyright and the need to enforce those copyrights,” a Verizon spokesman told CNet. “Without that enforcement, intellectual property won’t be generated at all. At the same time, it’s important for our customers to be assured that they won’t have their privacy rights trampled.”

The letters will be of the standard fare, warning customers they downloaded copyrighted material illegally which they must delete, and to refrain from the practice in the future.

It’s an about face for Verizon who once fought the RIAA all the way to the Supreme Court to protect the privacy and free speech of its customers.

Verizon has apparently decided to keep quiet about its deal with the MPAA, but an NBC Universal rep was more than happy to comment.

“We are happy to be working with the ISP community to raise awareness about inappropriate online activity,” it told CNet. “The notice from NBCU that accompanies the ISP’s letter includes a link through which consumers can learn about legitimate content online, and provides a number to call if consumers feel they have been contacted in error. We note, however, that virtually no users have contested the accuracy of the notices.”

So why the new partnerships?

I believe it’s simply looking to create and protect a new revenue stream as more and more people turn to the Internet for entertainment. The Internet is the future of content distribution and ISPs like Verizon are eager to partner with copyright holder groups like the RIAA and MPAA, who are also eager in kind, to create secure content delivery services they can monetize.

It’s a sure sign of things to come, and is precisely why network neutrality is so important, especially considering the lack of regional competition. As ISPs transition from providing a dumb “series of tubes” to services with competing online interests, there will be a real incentive for it block applications and services in order to protect its economic interests.

Stay tuned.

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