Music Industry Abandons Suits Against Individual File Sharers

Today’s Wall Street Journal online reports that the RIAA will no longer sue individuals it suspects of sharing copyrighted music files online. Instead, the RIAA will notify ISPs on the assumption that ISPs will try to stop their users’ behavior. Apparently, the RIAA has agreements with some ISPs. The Journal reports that ISPs will send emails asking users to stop their behavior. If the users don’t stop, the ISPs will slow down their Internet service or eventually cut the service off entirely.

I imagine that ISPs have agreed to cooperate with the RIAA in exchange for some understanding about the ISPs potential liability for user behavior. I wonder, though, if such an agreement undercuts ISP claims against such liability in other cases. If courts have excused ISPs from general, notice-based liability because ISPs cannot practically deal with the large volume of complaints about infringement, doesn’t the ISPs’ willingness to cooperate with the RIAA undercut that reasoning?

Obviously, I’m not privy to the precise arrangements in question, but I can’t help feeling that the ISPs have taken a step down the road towards admitting that they can and will function as the Internet’s police.