WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A recording industry trade group said Thursday
that it has filed another wave of lawsuits against 754 people it
suspects of distributing songs over the Internet without permission.
The Recording Industry Association of America has now sued more than
7,000 people for distributing its songs over "peer to peer" networks
like eDonkey and Kazaa, in an effort to discourage the online song
copying that it believes has cut into CD sales.
The RIAA typically settles copyright infringement suits for around
Despite more than a year of headline-grabbing lawsuits, peer-to-peer
use has not declined. An average of 7.5 million users were logged on
to peer-to-peer networks in November 2004, up from 4.4 million in
November 2003, according to the research firm BigChampagne.
The four major labels -- Vivendi Universal, Sony BMG Music
Entertainment, EMI Group Plc and privately held Warner Music -- have
recently begun to license their songs to a new generation of online
services as a way to slash distribution costs and reach out to fans.
But recording-industry officials remain at loggerheads with software
makers like Grokster and Morpheus that allow users to freely copy
"With legal online retailers still forced to compete against illegal
free networks, the playing field remains decidedly unbalanced," said
RIAA president Cary Sherman in a statement.
Courts so far have declined to declare peer-to-peer software makers
like Grokster and Morpheus illegal because, like a photocopier, they
do not permit copyright infringement but merely make it possible.
The Supreme Court will hear the entertainment's case against Grokster
and Morpheus in March.
The latest round of lawsuits included students at Columbia University,
the University of Pennsylvania, Old Dominion University and Virginia
Under pressure form the RIAA, many schools have taken steps to limit
file sharing and at least 20 schools give students free access to
industry-sanctioned download services like Roxio Inc.'s Napster .
The RIAA does not yet know the names of those it has sued, only the
numerical addresses used by their computers. The trade group typically
finds out suspects' identities from their Internet service providers
during the legal proceedings.
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