Relationship Status of RIAA and ISPs: It’s Complicated

The Recording Industry Association of America’s efforts to make nice to ISPs seem to be paying off–even if many of the ISPs are a little embarrassed by their new friend.

At a digital music panel in Nashville this week, executives from AT&T (T) and Comcast (CMCSA) created a furor by saying they were passing along warnings to customers that the RIAA says are illegally uploading music files onto the Internet.

Later, the companies tried to calm the outrage erupting in the blogosphere by harrumphing they weren’t cutting off Internet access to those people–or in the case of Cox (CXR), hardly ever cutting it off. AT&T said it wouldn’t cut off access without a court order.

So what is going on? For more than a year, the RIAA has been engaged in a major diplomatic effort to win over ISPs. “What we are trying to encourage ISPs to do is adopt some form of graduated response,” says Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman. “It is our position that people who are repeat offenders merit an account suspension or something like that.” He adds that any customer has a right to due process and should have the option to challenge the action if they think it is unjustified.

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