RIAA Uses Net Neutrality to Lump Together Fight Against P2P, Child Porn

RIAA Uses Net Neutrality to Lump Together Fight Against P2P, Child Porn

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) hopes that Google and Verizon’s recently announced “joint policy proposal for an open Internet” will mean that ISPs will be “permitted” and “encouraged” to fight illegal network activity “whether copyright infringement, child pornography or other illegal conduct.”

Copyright holders have a long and sordid history of trying to equate P2P with child porn, and again we see this manifested in recent comments made by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) about Google and Verizon’s announcement about a “joint policy proposal for an open Internet.”

Earlier this week Google and Verizon proposed a new legislative framework for Net neutrality guided by two main goals:

  1. Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.
  2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.

The RIAA, which after ending the practice of suing individual file-sharers back in 2008 in favor of ISP-level cooperation, has been waiting impatiently for the opportunity to somehow convince ISPs that it’s in their best interest to fight copyright infringement on their networks.

Unlucky for it ISPs, at least for now, haven’t been much interested in targeting erstwhile loyal, paying customers unless their illegal file-sharing activity has an adverse effect on an ISP’s network in terms of data or bandwidth usage.

So the RIAA sees the Net neutrality debate as important opportunity to try and convince them otherwise.

Google and Verizon’s proposal says that “wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.”

In response, the RIAA says that it is pleased that they “recognize that lawful and unlawful content should be treated differently,” but goes on to give only two examples of unlawful activity: copyright infringement and child pornography. Not to downplay the latter, but it’s funny that of all the unlawful online activity to choose from like fraud, identity theft, spam, harassment, etc. it chooses child porn. It’s no accident.

The RIAA’s international cousin the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) has been trying to equate P2P with child porn for years. As far back as 2007 the IFPI has said that “technology similar to that used to block access to child pornography could be used to block access to websites that facilitate infringing file-sharing of copyrighted music.”

Earlier this year the IFPI took that sentiment to the next level, going so far as to exclaim that “child pornography is great…because politicians understand child pornography.”

“By playing that card,” IFPI lawyer Johan Schlüter told an audience gathered at an anti-P2P conference in Sweden, “we can get them to act, and start blocking sites. And once they have done that, we can get them to start blocking file-sharing sites.”

So it’s not by coincidence that the RIAA mentions P2P and child porn in the same breath. The IFPI’s right. Child porn is something that politicians understand, and the RIAA apparently sees this as important tactic to use as well.

The RIAA mentions that it hopes to take part in the legislative and regulatory process of fleshing out a Net neutrality solution. Lets only hope that groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have a seat at the table and have a chance to reiterate the differences between the two.

The harm caused by child porn is very real, but the the harm caused by P2P is illusory at best. With the music industry’s profits, at least in the UK, having risen for the last 2 years in a row it’s hard to imagine why the RIAA would even compare the two acts. That is, unless, it’s “playing that card.”

Stay tuned.

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