Speaking during a Senate panel yesterday (Sept. 30), Recording Industry Association of America chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol announced a major change to the group's peer-to-peer enforcement policies.

Speaking during a Senate panel yesterday (Sept. 30), Recording Industry Association of America chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol announced a major change to the group's peer-to-peer enforcement policies. From now on, he said the RIAA will give notice to alleged egregious P2P infringers prior to filing lawsuits against them.

In addition to encouraging settlement talks, the change is a response to one of the most common complaints about the RIAA's subpoena and lawsuit actions. The notification will alleviate some of the surprise or confusion reported by users, including those who claim to have had no knowledge that their computers were allegedly being used for illegal downloading.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Internet service providers are not required to notify users that their personal information has been turned over to a copyright holder. "We're going to let them know that we will be suing them," Bainwol told members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in his first appearance on the Hill as RIAA chief. "We are trying to be reasonable and fair and allow these cases the opportunity to be resolved without litigation."

Bainwol also said "lawsuits could be avoided" if operators of P2P networks took certain steps, such as instituting disclosure notices that "free" uploading and downloading is illegal; using available technology to filter and block such activity; and changing default settings so users cannot unknowingly upload material.

"Understanding of the law is hazy. In large part, it's because file-sharing networks like KaZaA deliberately induce people to break the law," he said.

After the hearing, subcommittee chairman Norm Coleman told Bulletin he feels that the prior-notice change is "a good first step, and I commend the RIAA for its action." Coleman said he still believes the DMCA should be changed "to include some sort of judicial review" before subpoenas and lawsuits are allowed. Currently, subpoenas can be granted by a court clerk. Coleman said, however, that "for the time being," he is not introducing legislation to change the DMCA.

Also at the hearing, rapper LL Cool J testified in favor of the industry's lawsuits. "We're the dreamers," he said of recording artists. "We need your help." Allowing people to download illegally, he said, "is anti-American." Public Enemy front man Chuck D, meanwhile, opposes the litigation policy. "P2P to me means 'power to the people,'" he said.