MPAA, RIAA going steady with ISPs

Leaders say relationship will continue

The content industry’s budding cooperative relationship with broadband service providers will continue to develop even after their current principal common interest ceases to exist, top execs said Thursday.

As part of an Institute for Policy Innovation panel addressing online piracy, leaders of Hollywood, the recording industry and the wireless industry touted the beginnings of a long-term relationship built on a foundation of making the Internet a thriving market for legal content and a dead end for bootleggers.

“We’re all in this together,” said MPAA chairman-chief exec Dan Glickman.

“We’re moving toward a world where all our interests align,” said RIAA chairman-CEO Mitch Bainwol.

That alignment is the result of piracy, the bane of the entertainment industry, which has also caused problems for Internet service providers. Slowdowns and congestion in ISP pipes are due to heavy bandwidth use, much of which involves large files of pirated content.

But as compression technology improves and transfer speeds increase, congestion will eventually decrease — more than likely well before a solution to piracy is found. Would ISPs then still have an incentive to cooperate with content providers?

“The long-term relationship is much more complex and partner-based,” Bainwol said, suggesting that congestion, while a serious issue for content generators and ISPs alike, is only one common interest.

Bainwol noted that ISPs “don’t want to have dumb pipes” that move masses of traffic inefficiently. ISPs want to manage traffic better, he said, and one way will be to have “smart pipes” that will effectively know what content is moving through them. Smart pipes should therefore be able to spot and help stop illegal content.

Also on the panel was Steve Largent, prexy of the Wireless Assn., whose members are moving into broadband service. “We’re very much interested in traffic of legitimate content,” Largent said. “We want to pursue legitimate relations with partners.”

Cable giant Comcast and the makers of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer application recently announced an agreement to work together on improving traffic management. Announcement came in the wake of criticism and reports that Comcast had targeted BitTorrent traffic, slowing it down so that other traffic could continue moving.

As part of the agreement, Comcast pledged to develop a traffic management system that would not single out particular applications.

During the panel discussion, Glickman described the agreement as “a positive first step. But where are the content providers?” Nothing in the agreement specifically addresses pirated content. Bainwol said he would prefer that such language be included.

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