Labels aim big guns at small file swappers

In its most serious crackdown yet on file swapping, the Recording Industry Association of America said it will gather evidence against individuals who trade songs online and slap thousands of them with copyright-infringement lawsuits.

Bolstered by recent court rulings that make it easier to unmask individual file swappers, the music industry trade group said it will launch a massive campaign Thursday to target individuals who offer "substantial amounts" of music through peer–to-peer networks. "Once we begin our evidence-gathering process, any individual computer user who continues to offer music illegally to millions of others will run the very real risk of facing legal action in the form of civil lawsuits that will cost violators thousands of dollars and potentially subject them to criminal prosecution," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement.

The RIAA said it will scan the public directories of peer-to-peer networks to reveal files that people are sharing and detect their Internet service providers. The association will then serve subpoenas on the ISPs to identify the individuals. It expects the first round of suits to be filed as early as August. The RIAA has stepped up its pursuit of file swappers in recent months, but this plan marks the largest effort yet to file lawsuits against people who actually trade music. In late April, the RIAA tapped into chat functions in file-trading tools Kazaa and Grokster to send messages to users warning them they're breaking the law.

Copyright attorney Mark Radcliffe said the decision to follow up on the legal threats isn't surprising, but he said the RIAA is going to have to balance its pursuit of illegal traders with the possibility of alienating consumers.

News source: C|net

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