RIAA Files More Lawsuits

Tina Reilly
NEW YORK, NY – Continuing a legal backlash that started in June, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) launched its third attack against file-swappers, and just in time for the holidays.

This week's flurry of lawsuits brings the total number of legal actions filed on behalf of the RIAA well into the hundreds, and hundreds more are expected to follow.

According to representatives for the RIAA, 41 copyright infringement lawsuits were filed today and another 90 individuals have been given notice that they are under investigation and should expect to be contacted by the RIAA's legal team.

This is the third round of lawsuits so far this year as part of the RIAA's "no tolerance" policy intended to stem the amount of illegal file-sharing that transpires over the Internet.

File-sharers who have been served papers have been singled out as distributors of 1,000 or more copyrighted music files.

"The law is clear and the message to those who are distributing substantial quantities of music online should be equally clear --- this activity is illegal, you are not anonymous when you do it, and engaging in it can have real consequences," said RIAA president Cary Sherman. "We'd much rather spend time making music then dealing with legal issues in courtrooms. But we cannot stand by while piracy takes a devastating toll on artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers and everyone in the music industry."

The RIAA has used a number of methods to obtain information on file distributors, including software that scans public peer-to-peer directories, and subpoenas to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) demanding personal user information, names, addresses, etc.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ISPs must provide copyright holders with such information when there is reason to believe copyrights are being infringed, however some ISPs like Verizon and SBC Communications have taken the RIAA to court in defense of user privacy. Verizon already lost that battle and SBC is currently in litigation with the RIAA.

But the RIAA's legal onslaught has not gone without criticism from the Internet community and legal advocates for its invasion of privacy.

In September, the RIAA filed an infringement lawsuit against a Boston-based senior citizen in a case of mistaken identity. The information obtained by the RIAA was based on Internet activity records from her ISP, Comcast. However, the woman was able to prove she was not guilty of the accusation because she uses a Macintosh computer, which cannot run Kazaa's file-sharing software.

According to sources, settlements with the RIAA have averaged at around $3,000 for unpaid royalties.

The RIAA has also set up an amnesty program for file-sharers who claim to be guilty of infringement. Under the terms of the "Clean Slate" program, file-sharers can avoid legal action by deleting all uncopyrighted files and ceasing to download material from peer-to-peer networks. According to the RIAA, 1,054 people have so far submitted applications to Clean Slate.