In less than two years the RIAA has sent copyright infringement notices to 1.8 million Internet subscribers and 269,609 to colleges and universities. Despite this staggering average of more than a million infringement notices every year from the recording industry alone, the effect on file-sharing levels seems unnoticeable.
For years, content owners such as record labels and movie studios have been sending copyright infringement notices to Internet users. They hire companies such as DtecNet and BayTSP, who monitor file-sharing networks and automatically send infringement notices to Internet providers. The Internet providers on their turn are legally obliged to forward these to their customers.
Although these copyright infringement warnings are nothing new, little was known about the scope of these operations, until now.
This week the RIAA revealed that, since October 2008, it has sent out infringement warnings to 1.8 million Internet subscribers and 269,609 to colleges and universities in the United States. This translates into an average of well over a million infringement warnings a year.
Since the RIAA stopped pursuing individuals for sharing music online a long time ago, these infringement notices are merely a warning. However, the RIAA is confident that a significant number of the recipients will change their downloading habits once they’re notified.
An RIAA spokesman declined to inform us whether the number of infringement notices sent out are increasing or declining. The RIAA has no hard facts on the effectiveness of the notices either, but told us that university administrators usually see “very few” repeat offenders.
It does indeed seem plausible that some who are warned will think twice before they fire up their BitTorrent client unprotected, especially with all the talk about lawsuits recently. However, the effect of the warning campaigns are not noticeable in the number of file-sharing users and the traffic that they generate. Both are still increasing year after year.
RIAA’s openness with regard to their infringement notices comes right after the US put into effect a new requirement for colleges and universities to stop illicit file-sharing on their networks.
Starting this month, a provision of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 puts defiant schools at risk of losing federal funding if they don’t do enough to stop illicit file-sharers on their campus.
In recent years colleges and universities had to undertake measures to reduce piracy, and go after students who use file-sharing networks to share copyrighted files. Those who failed to do so will now lose their eligibility for federal student aid.
Effective or not, the new rules have proven to be quite costly for US educational institutions who spend between $350,000 and $500,000 a year to decrease piracy. With continuing doubts, even from the Government, as to whether or not piracy is causing losses to the entertainment industry, one has to wonder if it’s all worth it.
Whether the measures installed at colleges and universities are successful has to be doubted. We’ve reviewed the effectiveness of a few of the measures in the past and they provided little hope. If we add that users of file-hosting services such as Rapidshare and Megaupload are untraceable by the RIAA and its partners, the newly installed anti-piracy measures seem to be just symbolic.