RIAA Expands P-to-P Lawsuits

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The Recording Industry Association of America has taken new legal action against 896 alleged file traders using peer-to-peer services, the organization announced this week.

The total includes 744 new lawsuits against users of a variety of P-to-P services, including Kazaa, eDonkey, and Grokster. 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 this week, the RIAA has taken legal action against about 1500 alleged music uploaders since January.

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

New Tactics

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 says in a statement.

"Without a strong measure of deterrence, piracy will overwhelm and choke the creation and distribution of music," he adds.

A July survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates 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 says.

The RIAA did not disclose the perimeters of the survey.

Critics Speak Out

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, says Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, a trade group representing five P-to-P vendors, including Grokster and eDonkey.

"Nothing's new," Eisgrau says 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 calls 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 adds.

EDonkey owner Meta Machine has tried to talk with music labels about licensing music for the P-to-P service during the past six months, says 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 says.

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 says.

"I thought, prior to today, we had been making some real progress with the labels and the studios," he says. "This comes as a total surprise. This is not the behavior of a business partner acting in good faith."

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