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RIAA Sues 532 File Swappers
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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Any hopes that the Big Five record labels would relax their heavily criticized sue 'em all intimidation campaign against alleged p2p copyright violators were dashed, today, with the news that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is suing 532 people it says infringed music copyrights.

The RIAA, a trade organ owned by the major record labels, has been licking its wounds since a federal appeals court ruled, last month, that ISPs such as Verizon won't be forced to reveal the identities of Internet subscribers accused of music piracy to the RIAA - or anyone else.

It had been using the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to get instant subpoenas with which to haul people, including children and senior citizens, into court.

However, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in effect decided file sharing wasn't an issue when the 1998 DMCA came into force and therefore wasn't covered under it.

"Our campaign against illegal file sharers is not missing a beat," RIAA president Cary Sherman is quoted as saying in an Associated Press story here.

And, "Some people think the Verizon case means that you can go ahead and get back on a service and trade files," Mitch Glazier, the RIAA's senior vice president for government relations is quoted as saying in a Washington Post story here.

"We're not going to just sit and do no enforcement while the courts are figuring out the Verizon case."

Unlike the lawsuits it filed last fall against individual Internet users, the RIAA filed a handful of "John Doe" lawsuits targeting 532 unique "Internet protocol" numbers of Internet customers believed to be sharing music online, says the report, continuing:

"The RIAA plans to subpoena respective Internet service providers to obtain the names of people using those IP numbers.

"The John Doe lawsuits are less controversial in the eyes of some of the RIAA's adversaries. Verizon Associate General Counsel Sarah Deutsch last week encouraged the RIAA to file the lawsuits, saying that they provide defendants with more privacy protection than was offered by the looser administrative subpoena process that the appeals court panel ruled inappropriate in December."

The RIAA has argued in the past that the subpoena power it asserted under the 1998 copyright law were in the best interests of defendants - since it gave the RIAA the opportunity to approach alleged Internet music pirates privately about a settlement.

However, the reverse is true.

"... on Sept 9 or 10, I think it was, I heard about the summons from a reporter and it wasn't until a week later than I actually got it," Lorraine Sullivan, the New York student subpoenaed by the RIAA for file sharing, told p2pnet last year.

"And it's huge - the entire catalog of songs, and then about 10 pages of what they're accusing me of.

"Then attached is a letter saying, and of course I'm paraphrasing, 'If you'd like to settle, call us'. To me it was either deal with this huge, daunting summons and worry about it for months, or 'Pay us and we'll go away'."

While it's an improvement, "that the record industry now has to play by the same rules as everyone else who goes into court, they are still heading in the wrong direction," says EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) legal director Cindy Cohn.

"The recording industry should be giving America's millions of filesharers the same deal that radio stations have had for decades: pay a fair fee, play whatever you want on whatever software works best for you."

The record labels will have to prove that they have evidence in support of their claims and did a "reasonable investigation" before filing suit, rather than obtaining a subpoena rubber-stamped by a court clerk, which is what the DC Circuit court outlawed in late December.

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