RIAA Unleashes Another Round of Lawsuits

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) targeted 531 more alleged music file swappers in legal actions Tuesday, bringing the total sued for copyright infringement over peer-to-peer (P2) networks since January to more than a thousand.

Like the 532 RIAA lawsuits brought in January, the 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.

Once a John Doe suit has been filed and approved by a judge, the RIAA can subpoena the information needed to identify the defendant by name from an Internet service provider (ISP).

Tuesday’s RIAA legal blitz involved five lawsuits naming 531 John Doe alleged infringers. The suits were filed in Philadelphia (the home of Comcast), Atlanta (EarthLink), Orlando, Fla., and Trenton, N.J.

RIAA President Cary Sherman said, “we are sending a clear message that downloading or ‘sharing’ music from a peer-to-peer network without authorization is illegal, it can have consequences and it undermines the creative future of music itself.”

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 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 lawsuits filed Tuesday bring the total number of legal actions to 1,145 since the RIAA launched its legal campaign against individual file-swappers in September. Sherman said 233 of the lawsuits have been resolved with an average settlement of approximately $3,000.

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