Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed 896 new lawsuits against file traders using peer-to-peer (P-to-P) services, the organization announced Wednesday.

Wednesday's total includes 744 new lawsuits against users of a variety of P-to-P services, including Kazaa, eDonkey and Grokster Ltd. The RIAA filed an additional 152 lawsuits against people already identified in the litigation process who declined RIAA offers to settle their cases, according to the RIAA. Not including the lawsuits announced Wednesday, the RIAA has filed more than 1,500 lawsuits against alleged music uploaders since January.

The 744 "John Doe" lawsuits, against unnamed users of P-to-P services, were filed in Atlanta; St. Louis; Oakland, Calif.; New York; Austin, Texas; Covington, Ken.; Denver; Trenton, New Jersey, and Madison, Wis.

The RIAA's expansion of lawsuits to eDonkey users is an attempt to respond to "changing circumstances" in the P-to-P world, RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement. "Without a strong measure of deterrence, piracy will overwhelm and choke the creation and distribution of music," he added.

A July survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc. found that 64 percent of those surveyed believe it is illegal to make music from the computer available for others to download for free, while only 13 percent said it was legal, according to the RIAA. By a margin of 60-17, those polled were "supportive and understanding" of legal action against individual illegal file sharers, the RIAA said.

The RIAA did not disclose the perimeters of the survey.But P-to-P vendors continue to question the RIAA tactics. Instead of suing music fans, the RIAA should negotiate a way to pay artists with P-to-P vendors, said Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, a trade group representing five P-to-P vendors, including Grokster and eDonkey."Nothing's new," Eisgrau said of the new lawsuits. "The fact that the RIAA has the right to bring these lawsuits doesn't make them the right thing to do."Eisgrau called the lawsuits "highly unproductive." "These kinds of suits just can't be squared with a pathological refusal to so much as even discuss collective licensing proposals advanced by respected academics and economists across the country," Eisgrau added.

EDonkey owner Meta Machine Inc. has tried to talk with music labels about licensing music for the P-to-P service during the past six months, said Sam Yagan, president of the New York-based company. The lawsuits announced Wednesday are the first such lawsuits against eDonkey users to Yagan's knowledge, he said.Meta Machine is more concerned about the lawsuits' influence on those discussions with music labels than the potential negative effect on the number of eDonkey users, Yagan said."I thought, prior to today, we had been making some real progress with the labels and the studios," he said. "This comes as a total surprise. This is not the behavior of a business partner acting in good faith."


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