RIAA embarks on new round of piracy suits

The Recording Industry Association of America launched its largest wave of file-swapping lawsuits Wednesday, filing new copyright infringement suits against 532 currently unnamed individuals.

The suits are the industry group's first since an appeals court in December blocked its original strategy of identifying alleged file swappers before filing lawsuits by sending subpoenas to their Internet service providers. As a result, Wednesday's legal actions target hundreds of unnamed or "John Doe" computer users, whose identities will be added to the suits only after a court process likely to take several weeks. "The process by which we identify defendants has changed, but the program has not," RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a press conference to announce the lawsuits. "Our message should be as clear as ever: We can and will continue to bring lawsuits against those who distribute music to millions of strangers."

The move comes after a month of mixed news for the RIAA, which had a set of legal setbacks--including the appeals court ruling on the subpoena issue--and some indications that the dampening effect of lawsuits on file swapping may be wearing off. A survey the Pew Internet & American Life Project took in December found that just 14 percent of Americans said they had recently downloaded music from a file-swapping network, compared with 29 percent in a similar survey completed in May 2003.

News source: C|Net News.com

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