HITS Daily Double
"There will always be a degree of piracy, both on the street and online. But without a strong measure of deterrence, piracy will overwhelm and choke the creation and distribution of music."
——Cary Sherman, RIAA President


Trade Org Steps Up Attack with 744 Lawsuits After Court Rules File-Sharing Not Illegal
Cary Sherman isn't taking the RIAA's latest court setback lying down.

The trade org announced today it is expanding its legal efforts against illegal file sharers, bringing new copyright infringement lawsuits against 744 individuals on a variety of peer-to-peer platforms, including eDonkey, Limewire, Grokster and Kazaa, among others.

The move comes after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision last week upholding a lower court's ruling that file-sharing software companies, including Grokster and Streamcast's Morpheus, are not guily of copyright infringement (see hitsdailydouble.com, 8/20).

“John Doe” lawsuits were filed in Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, CA, New York, Austin, Covington, KY, Denver, Trenton, NJ, and Madison, WI. An additional 152 lawsuits were filed against “named” defendants, individuals who were identified through the litigation process and then declined or ignored RIAA overtures to settle their cases.

RIAA President Cary Sherman was talking tough: “Just as enforcement strategies for street piracy adapt with changing circumstances, the same goes for combating piracy online. We are adjusting and expanding our efforts to target illegal file sharing on additional platforms like eDonkey and others. There will always be a degree of piracy, both on the street and online. But without a strong measure of deterrence, piracy will overwhelm and choke the creation and distribution of music. And that goes double for you, Lefsetz.”

According to new data from the RIAA, there has been "an extraordinary leap in awareness about the law and the availability of legal online alternatives during the past year." A July survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates finds that 64% of those polled know it is illegal “make music from the computer available for others to download for free over the Internet” to 13% who believe it is "legal." The other 23% were too busy downloading the new Chingy single from Kazaa to respond.

The July Hart data also reveals that, by a margin of 60%-17%, those polled are “supportive and understanding” of the tactic of legal action against individual illegal file sharers; a 55%-17% margin believe there are “good legal alternatives”; and only 31% think the activity should be “legal,” compared to 56% who say it should be “illegal.” More than 85% of the respondents said they haven't bought a physical CD since 2001.

The RIAA insist that “legal alternatives” continue to gain new traction and expand into new marketplaces, citing partnerships between legal online music services and universities. There are now at least 20 different schools that have forged partnerships with legitimate music providers as compared to none last fall.

Describing the music community’s education and enforcement efforts during the past year, Sherman said “the difference in digital music today and last year is night and day.”

“Last year, illegal file sharing was soaring, outpacing even the surge of bandwidth penetration. Peer-to-peer services were viewed as ‘legitimate,’ risk-free and cool, by parents and policymakers alike. Americans did not know it was illegal to take copyrighted works off the Internet, nor did they know of the legal alternatives.

“Today, we are in a very different world. Traffic on one of the largest peer-to-peer file sharing systems is down, even with the exponential increase in bandwidth penetration. Awareness about the law, legal alternatives, and the security and privacy risks of file sharing
systems, has skyrocketed. And policymakers, law enforcement officials and universities are doing their part by helping educate music fans and enforce the laws.”

Of course, online experts like Big Champagne's Eric Garland dispute those figures, claiming P2P file sharing is now up to 20 million unique traders per week in the U.S. alone.