RIAA: No need to force ISPs by law to monitor piracy

Record industry chief says it's not necessary to "relegislate" legal duties that Internet service providers have in curbing copyright infringement.

WASHINGTON--It's no secret that Recording Industry Association of America President Cary Sherman despises piracy, and he's a vocal fan of proposed laws that would beef up penalties for copyright infringers.

But here's one area where he says the government need not intervene at this point: forcing Internet service providers to be more proactive in curbing pirated content on their networks.

"I don't think anyone here is trying to relegislate this issue," Sherman, said at an Internet policy conference here on Wednesday. "We're much more interested in finding a marketplace way of going about this."

By "relegislate," Sherman was referring to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which contains a section that generally lets service providers off the hook for copyright infringement on their networks, provided that they take down offending material when it's called to their attention.

Sherman revealed those leanings in response to a question from an audience member, who wanted to know how the record industry chief felt about recent statements by U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

McGuinness suggested that Internet service providers need to be taking more proactive steps to keep copyright-infringing content from being swapped on their networks and that the days of legal "safe harbours" restricting such responsibilities, such as the one provided by the DMCA, are over.

"Paul is European, and in Europe there has been much more of a regulatory approach to these issues," Sherman said of the longtime rock band manager.

Sherman did, however, say he was encouraged to see that some companies, such as AT&T, are already experimenting with network filters. But those are business decisions best made outside the framework of regulation, he said. (Verizon, for its part, said Wednesday that it opposes installing such technology .)

Gigi Sohn, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, attacked Sherman's praise for automatic filtering systems. She argued they're prone to blocking legal content, stunting fair use of copyrighted material, and being foiled by determined pirates who decide to encrypt their wares.

Sherman said he and the music industry as a whole strongly support fair use but warned, "Let's not let that be the excuse that stops the development of technology that can be beneficial in the long run."

 

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