US Music Biz’s New Tune On P2P Sings From Europe’s Hymnsheet

The British music industry had always eschewed American cousins’ penchant for suing illegal downloaders. Now America’s RIAA music org has come around to a European way of thinking. It’s giving up suing the downloaders and will instead enlist ISPs to send warning letters to transgressors.

That’s straight out of the playbook developed in France and the UK this year. While France has favoured a three-strikes-and-you’re-out approach, disconnecting law-breakers after repeated warnings, in the UK a memorandum of understanding signed between ISPs, labels and the government follows the same warning tack but stops short of network disconnection.

The RIIA’s new approach may be startling for an organisation more used to suing its own customers, as Avril Lavigne manager Terry McBride puts it, but it’s built right on the emerging European template. Like France, it includes the threat of disconnection; like in the UK, the labels are retaining the threat of the ultimate legal sanction.

But, whilst it’s Europe that has led the way on this softer, more rational means of combating music piracy, it may also be in Europe that the new accord faces its first challenge. Laws voted for by European parliamentarians recently require ISPs and labels seek court approval for disconnecting any customers for illegally grabbing content – a stipulation France isn’t acknowledging. So the RIAA – and digital rights activists – will be watching Brussels closely for any sign the new US approach may be made toothless…