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RIAA Puts More File-sharing Firms On Notice

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has asked seven file-sharing companies to stop making and promoting software that lets users download copyrighted music.

The cease-and-desist letters ask the companies, which the Wall Street Journal said includes LimeWire and BearShare, to stop promoting the infringement of RIAA member sound recordings.

The RIAA is trying to expand on the MGM vs. Grokster ruling from the Supreme Court, in which the court found that copyright holders could sue file-sharing companies for making it easier for people to infringe copyrights.

The new letters are the RIAA's next step in cracking down on Grokster's peers, which includes LimeWire and BearShare among others. LimeWire and Free Peers, maker of BearShare, did not return calls and e-mail seeking comment.

An RIAA spokeswoman confirmed that seven letters were sent but declined to name the companies. She explained why the music agency sent the letters.

"Companies situated similarly to Grokster have been given ample opportunity to do the right thing," she said in a statement. "There is a right way and a wrong way to conduct a business. Those businesses that continue to knowingly operate on the wrong side of that line do so at their own risk."

The spokesperson also reiterated the RIAA's support for what it deems "legitimate" file sharing, citing the Supreme Court's ruling in the Grokster case. The court said in its opinion that the companies that make file sharing software should "filter" out copyrighted content, thus preventing "the wholesale theft of copyrighted works."

She mentioned that record companies are willing to try legal file sharing models. This would include the new Napster.

"Record companies have demonstrated a strong desire to work with a variety of legitimate online enterprises that respect the rights of creators and provide high-quality music to fans," she said. "For a number of legitimate peer-to-peer services, those wheels are well in motion."

The spokesperson punctuated the comment with a thinly veiled threat: "In short: the transition to a legitimate online model is clear and achievable; the implications associated with ignoring that opportunity are great."

The letters can't be seen as anything but an ominous sign to file-sharer, which can basically shut down, add proposed filters or go to court with the RIAA. The last option is a tough tack.

The RIAA made things extremely difficult for Napster a few years ago, and has generated notoriety for fining adolescents thousands of dollars for taking music files from the Internet with the help of file sharing software.

In the landmark Grokster ruling, peer-to-peer (P2P) technology developers are legally responsible for the illegal acts of their users. The justices cleared the way for content providers to pursue litigation against P2P developers Grokster and StreamCast for actively inducing copyright infringement.

Similar lawsuits against Napster drove the original P2P developer into bankruptcy.