The recording industry on Thursday filed another round of copyright infringement lawsuits against people it said were illegally distributing songs over the Internet.
This latest wave of federal litigation targeted 750 computer users across the nation, including 25 students at 13 universities, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the largest music companies.
The RIAA claims the defendants used university computer networks to distribute copyrighted recordings on unauthorized peer-to-peer services, including eDonkey, Kazaa, LimeWire and Grokster.
Separately, the RIAA also sued 213 people in 34 states and Washington D.C. who had already been identified in earlier litigation but failed to settle their cases.
Among the universities attended by students named in the lawsuits were Indiana State, Iowa State, Ohio State and Southern Mississippi. The individual colleges and universities were not named as defendants.
As in previous cases, the new lawsuits were filed against "John Doe" defendants -- identified only by their numeric Internet protocol addresses. Music company lawyers must obtain the identity of defendants by issuing subpoenas to Internet access providers.
In all, recording companies have sued 6,191 music fans since September 2003, when the industry began waging its legal campaign against online sharing of music files. To date, 1,207 defendants have settled their cases out of court, the RIAA said.
Settlements in previous cases have averaged $3,000 each.
Local court ruling could be influential
While some surveys have shown the number of people engaging in file-sharing has declined since the RIAA began its legal assault, other data show millions continue to share music, movies and software online.
A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, concluded that traffic on peer-to-peer networks has never declined and is at least comparable to the same levels it was a year ago.
Meanwhile, any would-be defendants in recording company copyright cases who fall within the jurisdiction of the eastern Pennsylvania federal court district will benefit from a ruling issued earlier this month.
Issued in a case against six University of Pennsylvania students sued by the recording industry, the ruling requires Internet providers to give customers targeted by file-sharing lawsuits 21 days' notice before it reveals their identities to music company lawyers.
ISPs now have to send a letter to would-be defendants that informs them they are being sued and outlines their legal options, including settling out of court or fighting to keep their identity secret in court.
The Oct. 14 decision by Judge Cynthia M. Rufe potentially affects hundreds of RIAA file-sharing lawsuits against customers of cable and Internet service provider Comcast Corp., which is based in Philadelphia, said Paul Alan Levy, attorney for Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest law firm which became involved in the case.
The RIAA sends similar notices advising defendants of settlement options before proceeding with a case but at that stage the trade group's lawyers have already discovered the identity of the defendant.
"It is our hope that other judges in other districts will sort of take this example and run with it," Levy said. Other courts are under no legal obligation to do so, he said.