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RealTime IT News

Music Industry Sues ISPs

The music industry has taken aim at major Internet Service Providers as part of its battle against online music sites.

Major recording companies such as Arista Records, Interscope, Bertelsmann's RCA Records, Sony Music Entertainment and AOL Time Warner's Warner Brothers filed suit on Friday against ISPs AT&T Broadband, Cable & Wireless, Sprint Corp and UUNet Technologies Inc., a unit of WorldCom.

The copyright-infringement suit requests that the ISPs block their users' access to a China-based music file sharing site http://www.listen4ever.com, which had gone offline over the weekend and is still unavailable today.

A spokesperson for AT&T Broadband said the company would not comment on pending litigation but that the high-speed Internet access provider was working closely with the parties involved. A number of parties involved in the suit were said to be meeting in New York, where the suit was filed, regarding the issues raised in the complaint.

The site's servers may be in China, but it provides its services to a majority of US users via backbone routers owned by the defendants, the suit said.

Citing provisions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the complaint said "(d)efendants have the technological capability to significantly limit access to plaintiffs' copyrighted works via the listen4ever.com site. By disabling the connections that allow users' computers in the United States to communicate with listen4ever's servers in China, defendants can significantly diminish the continued illegal copying and distribution of plaintiffs' sound recordings."

The suit against the ISPs appears to be a new strategy by the music industry in its ongoing war against unauthorized music file-sharing sites that are popular and illegal -- and, apparently in this case, involve an overseas site that is more difficult to reach using US law.

With functions such as the ability to download entire sound recording albums directly from listen4ever's central server, the listen4ever site makes infringing music files more readily available than Napster, which currently is subject to a preliminary injunction as a result of its "contributory" and "vicarious" copyright infringement, the complaint said.

Artists whose works the suit said are being shared illegally via the site include Bruce Springsteen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran and Barbara Streisand.

A Cable & Wireless spokesman said the company had no comment on the suit. Other officials of ISPs named in the suit were unreachable by press time.