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The music industry looks to ISPs instead of lawsuits

The music industry may be abandoning its "shock and awe" legal campaign against file-sharing, preferring instead to work with ISPs.

As reported in Friday's Wall Street Journal, the music industry has apparently given up on suing 13-year olds and dead people in its quest to stem music piracy. Instead, it plans to work with ISPs to identify and notify copyright infringers of the need to come clean:

[T]he Recording Industry Association of America said it plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers making music available online for others to take.

Depending on the agreement, the ISP will either forward the note to customers, or alert customers that they appear to be uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. If the customers continue the file-sharing, they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether.

Cory Doctorow, among others, has sharply criticized such an ISP partnership in the past, but I see it as a big step up from the industry's current tactics, and one that could lead to other possible solutions like a music tax at the ISP level. TechDirt doesn't like this option, but it's unclear what other (good) options the industry has.

Throttling downloads at their source - i.e., the ISP that provides the bandwidth - is at least the right area in which to target the activity. Whether a tax or some other solution ends up working matters less than that the industry is now focused on the right piece of the piracy puzzle.