Written by Nathan Lovejoy
Edited by Harry Zhou
The September 30th issue of Rolling Stone featured an article provocatively titled “How to Save the Music Business” by U2 manager Paul McGuinness. In it, McGuinness shifts a hefty portion of responsibility for online copyright infringement to Internet service providers: “Let’s get real: Do people want more bandwidth to speed up their e-mails or to download music and films as rapidly as possible?”[i] He goes on to argue that service providers should take affirmative steps on behalf of rights holders to prevent illegal file sharing by their customers. This is not a new line of attack, especially in the two years since the Recording Industry Association of America’s (“RIAA”) efforts at suing individual file-sharers have come to an end. McGuinness might have, however, underestimated some of the pitfalls in implementing such a proposal. As rights holders, service providers, and governments in France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and elsewhere begin to embark on various forms of this “graduated response” — an enforcement regime predicated on suspension of accused infringers’ Internet access — we are only now beginning to understand the full range of its complications.
This comment will address procedural due process concerns within a hypothetical legislative-backed graduated response regime in the United States. Although no such system is currently in place, this comment will look to the recently implemented French scheme as a model. Commonly referred to by the acronym of its governing authority — Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet (“HADOPI”) — France’s HADOPI overcame constitutional challenges and began enforcement action earlier this year. If we were to import this type of scheme to the US with the exact same set of procedures, it would run against some of our core procedural values.
This comment begins with a description of what graduated response is in the abstract and addresses some of the motivations for rights holders in pursuing this strategy. Next, the HADOPI model as laid out in France’s “Creation on the Internet” legislation[ii] is examined step-by-step, as a series of distinct enforcement procedures. Finally, this comment will argue that should the US adopt a legislatively-created, French-style graduated response regime, its procedures may be subject to criticism on due process grounds. These issues could be — and likely will be — sidestepped, however, through eschewing legislation in favor of private enforcement agreements. (more…)