Universal goes social with ISP campaign

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The lawsuits may have stopped, but that doesn’t mean the music industry and its trade group the Recording Industry Assn. of America has toned down its crusade against unsanctioned peer-to-peer file-sharing. Negotiations, label and lobbying sources say, have been underway with Internet service providers for more than a year, as the U.S. music industry is pushing ISPs to follow the leads of many European countries in adopting policies that limit or curtail Web access of those who are deemed as infringing users.

Today, Universal Music Group Distribution took its fight online, launching a Facebook page in conjunction with the Recording Industry Assn. of America to promote the issue. It represents one of more bolder public stances from a major label in urging the U.S. to adopt such ‘graduated response’ initiatives. The most well-known such policy, perhaps, is France’s ‘three-strikes’ law, which was passed last year and can strip a user of home Internet access for up to a year.

In announcing the initiative, Universal Music Group Distribution head Jim Urie sent an e-mail urging the industry to participate. Wrote Urie, ‘Governments outside the U.S. are legislating, regulating and playing a prominent role in discussions with ISPs. Sales have dramatically improved in these countries. How is it that the U.S. -- with the most successful music community in the world -- is not keeping up with places like South Korea, France, the UK and New Zealand?’

The e-mail followed a similar-themed speech Urie delivered at an industry retail conference in Chicago last month. Urie, according to Billboard Magazine’s coverage of the presentation, noted that sales in France have risen 8% in the first quarter of 2010. South Korea, which adopted a graduated response system last year, saw a sales increase of 18% in 2009, the magazine quoted Urie as saying at the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers convention.

The Facebook campaign, dubbed ‘Music Rights Now,’ does not specifically mention Universal, and it points to the anti-piracy education website The latter counts among its supporters a number of trade groups and publishers, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the RIAA, but offers no direct contact information. The Music Rights Now Facebook page does not lay out any specific plan or parameters of a graduated response program in the United States. Instead, the page simply offers visitors the ability to send a note to Congress urging that greater attention be paid to anti-piracy efforts.


‘I hope that the industry can negotiate a voluntary deal with the ISPs,’ Urie wrote in his e-mail announcing the Facebook page. ‘We need our government representatives to encourage this. But whether or not we reach a deal with the ISPs, our government needs to know that we’ve got a piracy problem and we need real solutions.To accomplish this, our government needs to hear from all of us, so they know that their constituents are out here.’

--Todd Martens

Screenshot: Music Rights Now’s Facebook page.