RIAA to FCC: ISPs Need to Filter Content

RIAA to FCC: ISPs Need to Filter Content

Files brief with FCC asking it not to adopt strict net neutrality rules that would prevent ISPs from having the “flexibility” to implement anti-piracy measures to deter illegal file-sharing.

Late last week the RIAA filed comments on proposed net neutrality rules with the FCC asking that it adopt “flexible rules” so that ISPs can still “limit online theft,” and in fact wishes that the FCC would “actively encourage” their efforts to do so.

“The music industry has fully embraced the Internet as a major channel for connecting with consumers to market and provide access to our copyrighted works,” it says in an apparent bid to convince the FCC that it’s finally listening to music fans. Too bad it’s not true.

It blames illegal file-sharing for a more than 60% reduction in the workforce at the major record labels and a loss of more than $25 billion id direct revenue losses to American copyright holders. This too is not true.

Their figure always take a 1:1, one illegal download equals a lost sale, approach to their figures, contradicting repeated evidence that for creative industries like music P2P actually increases consumption.

The job losses are also partially to blame on the economic downturn and the fact that music consumers are cherry picking digital singles to purchase. Previously $20 physical album purchase have been relegated to a $1.29 treat on Apple’s iTunes.

The RIAA says that P2P is taking a “social toll,” that as “artists rosters are pared and future artists opt for other careers, digital theft has the effect of quieting countless voices we will never have the privilege to hear.”

Funny thing is that a Harvard Business School study conducted last June found that the number of albums produced since 2000 has in fact doubled!

So much for a “social toll.”

Trying to round out the bases it adds that P2P traffic “notoriously hogs bandwidth” and has an “ill effect” on the ability of others trying to “use the Internet for lawful purposes.”

Taking their statistics that P2P consumes 20% of total traffic at face value, the RIAA ignores the fact that ISPs seem to be handling the problem just fine. It also conveniently forgets the fact that the cost to increase network capacity gets cheaper by the day.

Comcast, for example, told investors last April that the equipment necessary to provide 50Mbps costs less than it had paid for the 6Mbps equipment. Even more infuriating is that it said it only costs an average $6.85 per home to DOUBLE the bandwidth capacity of an entire neighborhood. Think about how much your broadband connection costs each month and then stop to consider that your ISP is concerned over a measly seven bucks!

All of this leads to the RIAA’s central theory, that “ISPs are in a unique position to limit online theft” and should therefore be a central figure in their plans to limit illegal file-sharing.

They desperately want the FCC to “adopt rules that not only allow ISPs to address online theft, but actively encourage their efforts to do so.”

A group of critics has blasted the notion of ISPs becoming copyright cops in comments also submitted to the FCC.

“The Commission should be extraordinarily reluctant to adopt any exception that permits ISPs to block lawful activities as a side effect of efforts to block copyright infringement or unlawful conduct,” reads their submission. “After all, ISPs are poorly placed to determine whether or not transfers of content are infringing or otherwise unlawful, a task generally reserved to attorneys, courts, and law enforcement. An exception permitting overbroad mechanisms would encourage ISPs to use systems that would encourage more false positives—and thus more blocking of lawful transfers of content—than otherwise.”

Precisely. ISPs should merely be “dumb tubes,” onramps to the Internet and not turned into checkpoints where thoughts and ideas are screened by private businesses before they are allowed entrance.

Stay tuned.

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