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
Similar lawsuits against Napster drove the original P2P developer into