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Robert Morast, Published January 09 2009

Internet provider to be big brother for downloaders

When the Recording Industry Association of America recently announced that it would stop pursuing legal action against people who illegally download copyrighted material, MP3 pirates everywhere rejoiced.

Finally, they could download – oops, I mean “share” – Grand Funk Railroad and Ting Tings records without fearing the RIAA’s storm troopers would rush into their homes, confiscate their hard drives and serve them with legal suits asking for tens of thousands of dollars in “damages.”

For downloaders, it was the ultimate Christmas gift.

But as the celebration drove countless music and movie hounds to the Internet for some guilt-free “sharing,” it died down a bit when word spread that the RIAA’s announcement also stated the RIAA wasn’t giving up its hunt for illegal downloaders. Rather, it was simply changing its tactics.

Now, says the RIAA, it will rely on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to police people swapping copyrighted files.

Basically, this means that the RIAA wants the companies who supply your Internet service to report any illegal activity. And with that comes new concerns. Could an ISP, such as Cable One, become an arm of the RIAA and the de facto police of Internet of piracy?

The short answer is “yes.”

But don’t expect ISPs like Cable One or GoMoorhead to suddenly form SWAT teams designed to infiltrate the homes of Web pirates.

According to a couple of local ISPs, nothing is going to change.

Scott Geston, general manager for Cable One’s Fargo branch, says he doesn’t anticipate any new policies as a result of the RIAA’s change in protocol.

But that doesn’t mean they’re pro-piracy. What Geston and others say is that they’ll continue to enforce Internet piracy as they have for years.

Yes, whether you realized it or not, companies such as Cable One and GoMoorhead have been monitoring illegal downloading and uploading of copyrighted material for quite awhile in compliance of the Digital Millennium Compliance Act. To comply, they notify customers who dabble in illegal Internet activity to cease and desist or they’ll cancel Internet service.

Cable One and GoMoorhead say this doesn’t happen too often.

But under the RIAA’s new plan it could become more prevalent, as the RIAA will be notifying ISPs when they find people illegally hosting or downloading material.

That’s what’s so shrewd about this latest move by the RIAA – the group will continue to enforce its laws but won’t have to suffer the negative press that came via suing college students, young kids and dead people.

Suddenly the ISPs become the bad guys. It’s probably not fair for the ISPs, but neither is being sued big money for downloading a crappy Jason Mraz song.

Robert Morast only downloads Conway Twitty records. Morast can be reached at (701) 241-5518 or rmorast@forumcomm.com