First, let’s go over the current primary method that the RIAA uses to root out copyright violations.
Note: These techniques were brought to my attention by institutions that have been served RIAA requests, and the following is educated conjecture based on those observations.
How the RIAA Roots Out Copyright Violations
P2P Directory Scan
Most P2P clients will publicly advertise a directory of stored files for download for other P2P clients to see. I suspect most consumers who use a P2P client are not aware that they are also setting up a server when they install their P2P client. For example, if you are running a P2P client on your laptop, you are also most likely running a P2P server advertising media files from your hard drive for others to download. To find you, it is just a simple matter of the RIAA agent, using another client, to ask your server what music files are available. If they find copyrighted material on your hard drive, they may then attempt to locate you and send you a cease and desist. Unless you are intentionally profiting and distributing large amounts of copyrighted material, this method is really the only practical method to track down a small-scale distributor.
So far so good, but the problem the RIAA often has with apprehension is that many home users have their IP address hidden behind their ISP provider. In other words, the RIAA can only track a user to their local ISP and from there the trail goes cold. A good analogy would be to assume that you were dog the bounty hunter and all you had to go on was the address of an apartment building. That gets you in the general area of a suspect, but you would still need some help in finding the unit number, thus making apprehension a bit more complex.
So essentially what they do is send a threatening letter to your ISP requesting that they do something about your downloading of illegal music. It is far more efficient for them to send this letter than to investigate further. The copyright lobbyists also work for favorable laws to force ISPs to be accountable for pirated material going across their wires. These laws often get into the grey area of jeopardizing the open Internet.
Okay, now for the fun part. Here are some unique ideas from left field to help find copyright violators.
How to Fight Media Piracy (some wild ideas)
1) Seed the Internet with a music file deliberately containing a benevolent virus.
The virus’s only symptom would be to e-mail the RIAA information about the person playing the illegal download on their computer. The ironic thing about this method is that many P2P files are encrusted with viruses already. The intent of this virus would just be to locate the violator. I am not sure if this would be illegal or be considered entrapment; it would be like the police selling drugs to a user and then arresting them, but it would be effective.
2) Flood the internet with poor quality copies of the real recordings.
I am not sure if this would work or not, but the idea is if all the free black market copies of music out there were really poor quality, that would increase the incentive to get a real version from a reputable source. Especially if the names and the titles, as well as the file sizes of the bad copies could not be determined until after they were downloaded.
3) Create a giant free site like MegaUpload (if you go to this site, it is now just an FBI piracy warning).
Let it fill up with bootleg material, and once users started using this site extensively, start appending little recorded messages on the music files as they go out that say things about violating copyright law. So when they play, the user hears a threatening message about how they have violated the law and what can happen to them. This is a twist on idea #2 above.
Maybe the RIAA and music industry will take up one of my ideas and use it to stop copyright infringement. If you can think of other ways to reduce piracy, please feel free to comment and add your ideas to my list.