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RIAA sues 762 more over music swaps

Recording-industry trade group says it has filed a new round of lawsuits against 762 people it suspects of distributing songs for free online.
/ Source: Reuters

A recording-industry trade group said Thursday it had filed a new round of lawsuits against 762 people it suspects of distributing its songs for free over Internet "peer to peer" networks like Kazaa and eDonkey.

The Recording Industry Association of America has now sued roughly 5,400 people over the past year in an effort to discourage the online song copying that it believes has cut into CD sales.

"We want music fans to enjoy music online, but in a fashion that compensates everyone who worked to create that music," RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement.

Among those sued were students at 26 different colleges and universities, where the prevalence of high-speed networks and cash-poor music fans has led to an explosion of peer-to-peer traffic.

Under pressure from the RIAA, many schools have taken steps to limit file sharing and at least 20 schools give students free access to industry-sanctioned download services like Roxio Inc.'s Napster.

The RIAA does not yet know the names of those it has sued, only the numerical addresses used by their computers. The trade group typically finds out suspects' identities from their Internet service providers during the legal proceedings.

In addition to those sued anonymously, the RIAA said it had sued 68 defendants whose identities had been discovered and who had declined offers to settle.

The RIAA typically settles copyright-infringement suits for around $5,000 each.

Though the recording industry has successfully sued thousands of individuals, it has had less luck with the peer-to-peer networks themselves.

Courts so far have held that networks cannot be held liable because, like VCR makers, they do not commit copyright infringement but merely make it possible.

The RIAA has pushed Congress to lower that standard. A bill currently being considered in the Senate would hold liable anyone who "induces" others to reproduce copyrighted material.

Objections by librarians, conservative groups and the technology industry have prevented the bill from advancing so far, but Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said earlier Thursday that he would take it up again next week.

The RIAA represents the world's largest record labels, such as Warner Music, EMI Group Plc and the music arms of Bertelsmann AG Sony Corp and Vivendi Universal