RIAA tells FCC: ISPs need to be copyright cops

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should avoid adopting strict net neutrality rules that would limit broadband providers' flexibly to "address" illegal online file sharing, the Recording Industry Association of America said in comments filed with the FCC on Thursday.

Internet service providers should have authority to block subscribers from sharing music and other files without permission of the copyright owner, the RIAA said. "ISPs are in a unique position to limit online theft," the RIAA said in its comments. "They control the facilities over which infringement takes place and are singularly positioned to address it at the source. Without ISP participation, it is extremely difficult to develop an effective prevention approach."

The FCC should not only avoid rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking illegal file trading, but it should actively encourage ISPs to do so, the RIAA said.

The deadline for a first round of comments in the FCC's net neutrality/open Internet proceeding was late Thursday. The FCC's Web site received 150 electronically filed comments in the net neutrality/open Internet proceeding on Thursday alone, while the commission has received tens of thousands of comments since it voted to launch the rulemaking proceeding in October.

Groups on both sides of the issue said more than 10,000 individuals supporting their side have filed comments in the proceeding.

Several large ISPs have rejected an RIAA suggestion that they kick subscribers out after three copyright violations. The FCC launched its net neutrality proceeding prompted in part by Comcast's decision to throttle subscribers' use of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing service, although Comcast said its reason was related to network congestion, not illegal file trading.

The FCC, however, suggested that broadband providers be allowed to engage in "reasonable network management," including preventing the "lawful transfer of content," in a notice of proposed rulemaking released in October.

Illegal filing sharing and congestion are closely related, said the RIAA, which was among the dozens of groups that filed comments in the net neutrality/open Internet proceeding before a midnight Thursday deadline for the first round of comments. P-to-P networks make up about 20 percent of Internet traffic, the group said.

"Piracy, particularly piracy conducted by high-volume users, notoriously hogs bandwidth," the RIAA said. "Piracy wastes scarce network resources and crowds out legitimate uses of the network. It costs more to bring broadband to additional areas because of this inflated bandwidth usage."

Other groups called on the FCC to stay out of the copyright enforcement business. If ISPs are required to check for copyright infringement, they could interfere with legal online activities, said six digital rights and business groups, including Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

ISPs are "poorly placed to determine whether or not transfers of content are infringing or otherwise unlawful, a task generally reserved to attorneys, courts, and law enforcement," the groups said in a filing with the FCC. "In short, the issue raised by broadening the 'reasonable network management' exception to include copyright enforcement and the blocking of unlawful content is not whether ISPs may undertake these efforts, but rather whether they may inflict collateral damage on lawful traffic when they do so."

In addition to the comments on copyright, several minority groups weighed in on net neutrality.

Twenty-three groups representing minorities and disabled people, including the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, 100 Black Men of America, and the Japanese American Citizens League, called on the FCC to focus instead on bringing broadband to areas that don't yet have it.

Net neutrality rules could slow broadband providers' investment in new networks, the groups said. "We strongly urge the commission to ensure that there will be no delays in advancing initiatives to bridge the digital divide," the groups said. "Should our communities be left behind in broadband deployment and adoption as a result of any reactive policy, we know our constituents and members stand to miss out on important opportunities for economic attainment, educational achievement, affordable health care, and civic engagement."

Other minority groups, including ColorofChange.org, Afro-Netizen, and National Association of Hispanic Journalists, encouraged the FCC to approve net neutrality rules.

"These regulations are necessary to ensure that all people -- especially people of color, who have been traditionally under and misrepresented on mainstream media -- enjoy opportunities to share their stories fairly and accurately," National Hispanic Media Coalition President and CEO Alex Nogales, said in a statement. "Unlike traditional media, the Internet is a forum where individuals can disseminate content and participate in civic discourse with relatively low barriers to entry."

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