In providing public comment to the Federal Communication Commission on preserving an open Internet, a group of U.S. music publishers and collective rights organizations have asked that Congress consider empowering Internet Service Providers (ISP) to work with right holders to develop a graduated response strategy aimed at ending online theft of copyright works.

A comment filed by the National Music Publishers Assn., ASCAP, BMI, the Nashville Songwriters Assn. International, the Church Music Publishers Assn. and SESAC, noted that 95% of music downloads (or 40 billion downloads) were unauthorized in 2008, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

The comments also said, "An analysis by the Institute for Policy Innovation concludes that global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers' earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, songwriter mechanical royalty income dropped 32% between 2003 and 2006."

In a notice of proposed rulemaking, "the FCC draws an important and necessary conceptual distinction between lawful and unlawful content, appearing to recognize that that net neutrality should not somehow facilitate the transfer of illegal content," the comment submitted by the rights organizations said.

"In our judgment, the Commission's final rules on Preserving the Open Internet and Broadband Industry Practices should make clear that Internet Service Providers can exercise reasonable management practices to address abuses on their networks. ISPs must have the ability to establish not only a system of warnings but also a penalty regime for violators in order to ensure that a reasonable deterrent to unlawful activity exists," the comment said.

Moreover, the rights organizations said that any forthcoming regulations should not prohibit the development of new technologies to combat digital theft. "Final rules on net neutrality must ensure that ISPs have the flexibility to employ the best available technologies and methods to combat the illegal transmission and distribution of copyrighted works in the future," the comment said.

The rights organizations makes the argument that without a graduated response to illegal downloads "expanded broadband penetration may actually increase the scope of digital piracy and diminish the quality of content on the Internet for the vast majority of users."

In a separate statement, the same organizations noted, "Several countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and France, have implemented or are in the process of implementing various types of graduated response."