Music Labels Sue More File-Sharers

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The Recording Industry Association of America has filed a new round of lawsuits against people who share unauthorized copies of music over P-to-P services, the trade group announced Thursday.

The 751 new lawsuits bring the total number of RIAA copyright infringement lawsuits to about 17,100 since September 2003. The RIAA has settled lawsuits with about 3800 people, a spokesperson said.

Sharing Practices Shift

The lawsuits come a day after a study was released saying U.S. residents' use of unauthorized P-to-P services dropped late this year. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that entertainment companies could sue peer-to-peer file-sharing services Grokster and Morpheus for copyright infringement of their users, and The NPD Group study said the number of U.S. households downloading at least one unauthorized song using P-to-P software dropped 11 percent between June and October.

Grokster shut down in November as part of a settlement with the RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America. The Grokster Web site says it continues to work on relaunching with a "safe and legal" service.

In October, members of 5.7 million U.S. households downloaded at least one unauthorized song using P-to-P services, according to NPD, which tracks PC usage from 11,000 households. That's down from 6.4 million U.S. households in June, NPD said.

NPD had observed a growing use of P-to-P software to download music in 2004 and early 2005. In the fourth quarter of 2004, P-to-P peaked as users ended summer activities and returned to school, noted Russ Crupnick, music industry analyst for NPD. The Grokster decision seemed to have a direct impact on P-to-P use, he added.

"If this trend continues throughout the remainder of the fourth quarter 2005 and into next year, it would signify a solid victory in the music industry's efforts against illegal music file sharing in the U.S.," Crupnick said in a statement.

Students, Sites Sued

In the new RIAA lawsuits, students at Drexel University, Harvard University, and the University of Southern California were among those sued. Users of the LimeWire and Kazaa P-to-P software packages were among those sued, the RIAA said.

In addition to the 751 lawsuits filed against unnamed defendants, the RIAA also announced Thursday that it had identified 105 defendants from past "John Doe" lawsuits and filed lawsuits against those people. Residents of Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin were named in those lawsuits.

The RIAA continues to see the lawsuits as "one component" of an effort to educate people about copyright infringement and stop the unauthorized downloading of music, said RIAA spokesperson Jenni Engebretsen. "Without question, the lawsuits have helped to arrest the use of illegal peer-to-peer services," she said.

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