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AT&T Testing RIAA's Download Tracking Plan

Music leechers beware: the RIAA has an antipiracy plan up its sleeve, and AT&T has signed on to test it out. Oh snap.

There's definitely something to be said about the RIAA: it's persistent. While many scoff at the entity's prior history in regards to taking action against consumers illegally obtaining music, the fact is that musicians, for the most part, have bills to pay, have mouths to feed, and ultimately are no different than the next door neighbor.

But there's no denying that many actions taken by the RIAA are over-the-top and simply--unnecessarily--harsh. When the company announced in December 2008 that it would no longer take action against pirates in a legal sense, many wondered just how the group would pursue its antipiracy quest. Rather than going to the courts, the RIAA instead turned to the ISPs, the actual heart of the matter. Without an Internet connection, pirating would become more of a gnat bite than a huge epidemic. Keeping that idea in mind, many "silent" broadband ISPs agreed to the RIAA's plan and signed on, two of which eventually reared their faces: Comcast and AT&T.

As of yesterday, AT&T is conducting a trial run according to Jim Cicconi, a senior executive for AT&T, speaking at the Leadership Music Digital Summit held yesterday. He said the company wanted to see consumer reaction although he did not specify exactly what the notices contained. Previous talks have revealed that offenders would receive warning in the mail; repeat offenders would see their Internet connections temporarily disconnected or shut off completely. According to CNET, AT&T told managers of the top record labels that the trial letters include "strong language about the consequences of illegal conduct," but do not contain termination notices.

It will be curious to see if the trial run actually works. ISPs have shied away from copyright enforcement in the past in fear of driving away revenue. After all, customers are the main source of income; shutting off the connection for good means one less dollar sign for the company. However, the RIAA's "graduated response" plan doesn't dictate termination until its the very last option; ISPs can temporarily disconnection for a short "time out" period if needed. If children are any example, a "time out" really doesn't work, but ISPs will have to figure that out on their own.

Are ISPs are slowly becoming copyright enforcers? It certainly looks that way, and if the current plan doesn't work out, it will only be a matter of time before the government grows weary of the whole antipiracy issue and regulate the North American access to the Internet.