RIAA: ‘Turn Off File Uploads or Face Music’

The Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) aggressive campaign
to stamp out illegal file sharing intensified Wednesday with a warning that
the trade group will file “thousands of lawsuits” against individual
computer users.

Fresh off a landmark legal victory against Verizon , which
clears the way for ISPs to reveal the
names
of suspected music pirates, the RIAA made it clear the next step
in the battle would extend to users of the controversial P2P services.

On a conference call Wednesday, RIAA president Cary Sherman said the
group would begin collecting evidence against users who share “substantial”
amounts of copyrighted digital music and warned that thousands of lawsuits
seeking monetary damages could be filed within eight to 10 week.

“Any individual computer user who continues to steal music will face the
very real risk of having to face the music,” Sherman declared.

To avoid being sued, the RIAA is strongly urging users of file-sharing
programs to disable file-uploading capabilities and take steps to block
copyrighted music from being pirated. The popular P2P networks — Kazaa,
Morpheus and Grokster — all have features built in to disable the
software’s uploading capacity and Sherman’s public threats is seen as an
attempt to scare users into blocking uploads.

“This will not only keep strangers out of your hard dive, it will keep
you from getting sued,” the group said.

With the Verizon ruling in hand, it’s a safe bet the RIAA’s lawyers will
be issuing subpoenas to ISPs around the country to locate individual
copyright infringers before filing lawsuits.

In the past, the RIAA has asked for monetary damages of up to $150,000
per song traded on the networks, a figure Sherman mentioned on his
conference call with reporters.

It’s not the first time the RIAA’s battle has extended beyond the actual
big-name P2P networks. In April, the group slapped four
lawsuits
against university students operating “Napster-like internal
campus networks” that aid in the theft of copyrighted songs.

Those lawsuits were settled with
the students agreeing to pay damages ranging from $12,000 and $17,500
each.

The latest offensive comes just months after a surprise court
ruling
that Grokster and Morpheus could not be held liable for piracy by
third-party users.

In what amounted to a serious blow to the RIAA’s anti-piracy offensive,
U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson argued Grokster and Morpheus could
not control how people use their software, which could also have legitimate
applications. It free the Grokster and Morpheus networks from being sued by
a slew of big-name media companies, including AOL Time Warner, Vivendi
Universal, Sony Corp., Viacom Inc., News Corp. and Walt Disney Co.

News Around the Web