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Holiday Greetings: RIAA Files More Lawsuits

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent early holiday greetings to alleged peer-to-peer (P2P) music pirates Wednesday, filing 41 more lawsuits claiming "egregious" copyright infringement. In addition, the principle trade group of the music industry said it notified another 90 people that it intends to file suits against them.

The RIAA defines egregious as distributing 1,000 or more "copyrighted music files for millions of strangers on the Internet to copy for free."

Since September, when the RIAA launched its legal campaign against individual file-swappers, the music industry has filed 382 legal actions. Almost 300 more P2P users have been notified of possible infringement violations.

The RIAA says it has secured 220 settlements with file-sharers, resulting from a combination of lawsuits filed, notification letters sent to those targeted for legal action, and individuals who had contacted the RIAA after learning that their identifying information was subpoenaed from their Internet service provider (ISP).

According to the RIAA, the lawsuits help to foster an environment that provides a level playing field for the growing number of legitimate online music services to thrive.

"The legal actions taken by the record companies have been effective in educating the American public that illegal file sharing of copyrighted material has significant consequences," said RIAA President Cary Sherman. "Consumers are increasingly attracted to the host of compelling legal online music alternatives."

Additionally, the RIAA said, more than a thousand people have filed "Clean Slate" affidavits, an RIAA amnesty program for P2P network users who voluntarily identify themselves and pledge to stop illegally sharing music on the Internet. The program has been attacked as misleading and in California, a lawsuit has been filed claiming the program is a deceptive trade practice.

Research from Peter D. Hart Research Associates released by the RIAA indicates the anti-piracy campaign is having an effect on illegal file-swapping. Hart's survey results from a November poll, among 802 Americans age 10 and over, show that 64 percent of those polled understand it's illegal to "make music from the computer available for others to download for free over the Internet."

That's up from 37 percent in November of last year, and for certain subgroups, the new awareness numbers are even higher, for example, 69 percent versus 16 percent among "regular Internet users."

The Hart data also claims that by a 52-20 margin, those surveyed feel there are now good legal alternatives to illegal downloading.