RIAA Keeps Pressure on P2P Users

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) hit alleged music file swappers with another round of legal actions Tuesday, marking the music industry’s third consecutive month of stepped-up litigation against peer-to-peer (P2P) network users. Since January, the RIAA has filed almost 1,600 such actions.

Included in this month’s round of 532 ‘John Doe’ subpoenas seeking the names of suspected music pirates are 82 actions against individuals the RIAA claims used college and university networks to illegally distribute copyrighted music.

The RIAA identified university networks being used for illegal file sharing at schools in Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. The schools are not part of the legal actions other than being requested to supply the names of the file-swappers.

The other 443 lawsuits were filed against file sharers using commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) in California, Colorado, Missouri, Texas and Virginia.

More than a year ago, the RIAA and a number of colleges and universities formed a joint committee to address music piracy on college campuses.

While the RIAA said Tuesday “real progress” has been made regarding music piracy at schools, lawsuits remain a key component of the music industry’s strategy to curb P2P music file sharing.

“There is an exciting array of legal music services where fans can get high-quality online music,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement. “Lawsuits are an important part of the larger strategy to educate file sharers about the law, protect the rights of copyright owners and encourage music fans to turn to these legitimate services.”

Since music piracy remains “rampant on college campuses, it’s important for everyone to understand that no one is immune from the consequences of illegally ‘sharing’ music files on P2P networks,'” Sherman said.

The RIAA said the first round of lawsuits filed in January is “proceeding along.” All four courts in that round have granted the group’s preliminary request to issue subpoenas to ISPs to learn the identity of illegal file sharers.

Once an individual is identified by the RIAA, the record companies plan to offer settlements. If the file sharer rejects the settlement offer, the RIAA will proceed with copyright infringement litigation.

For the second round of suits brought in February, courts in Georgia and New Jersey have approved the RIAA’s motion to begin issuing subpoenas but a court in Florida has requested an additional briefing. In Philadelphia, the RIAA is asking the court to reconsider an initial decision that the RIAA needed to file individual complaints for each illegal file sharer.

Like the 1,063 RIAA lawsuits brought in January and February, the March suits employ the John Doe process, which is used to sue defendants whose names aren’t known. The lawsuits identify the defendants only by their Internet protocol computer address.

A decision by a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court on Dec. 19 that the information subpoena process allowed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) cannot be used in infringement cases involving P2P networks forced the RIAA to change to the John Doe process.

From September to mid-December, the RIAA issued more than 3,000 DMCA subpoenas to obtain names for copyright infringement suits. The DMCA subpoenas were filed prior to any charges of infringement and were not subject to a review by a judge, and required no notice to, or opportunity to be heard by, the alleged infringer.

The status of those lawsuits has not been determined.

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