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Has the music industry’s plan to sue individuals stopped you from swapping songs online?" 54% said no, a mere 6% said yes, and 13% said they’ve cut back but not stopped. 26% said they don’t download songs—a likely story

CAN RIAA’S FULL-COURT PRESS MAKE THE SWAP DROP?

Polls Says Suits May Not Fit Problem, Aimster Gets Smackdown and Anonymity Software Is Latest Annoying Pop-Up
The RIAA’s long-expected announcement that it will pursue litigation against individual online file-sharers made a big media splash. But will it achieve its desired result of deterring P2P use and urging digital-music fans toward legit services?

A poll on America Online—hardly a hotbed of radicalism on most topics—suggests the biz has a way to go before swappers are spooked.

In answer to the question, "Has the music industry’s plan to sue individuals stopped you from swapping songs online?" 54% said no, a mere 6% said yes, and 13% said they’ve cut back but not stopped. 26% said they don’t download songs—a likely story.

AOL bulletin boards related to the topic were filled with vitriol against the industry, along with the usual claims that sales are down because most records suck.

The respondents may have shown such defiance in part because of the emergence of software that claims to protect user anonymity over P2P networks. The latest is Blubster 2.5 from Spanish company Optisoft S.L. The application has already earned high marks from users of free-software mecca CNET Download.com.

"Blubster will always pursue counter measures to preserve the freedom and empowerment of decentralized networking," promised developer Pablo Soto, who likened a file sent via the program to a very accurate message in a bottle. "The very existence of our network ensures artists and content creators an alternative to signing away their rights to copyright barons."

With the providers of file-sharing services freed of responsibility for users’ actions by a district court in a case against Grokster, users have become the RIAA’s only viable target for legal action. But a new decision, handed down today against swappery Aimster, suggests the RIAA may see success in its appeal of the earlier verdict.

"We're delighted by this decision which makes clear, as did the Napster decision, that companies cannot profit from copyright infringement," exulted RIAA Prexy Cary Sherman. "A peer-to-peer service is not off the hook simply because it claims there may be legitimate uses of its network. When these types of services exist primarily as a vehicle for copyright infringement, they have an obligation to try and reduce the illegal activity occurring on their networks."

A Federal District Court decision forcing Verizon to hand over the identity of high-volume swappers cleared the way for litigation against individuals (see story, 6/20). Meanwhile, Congress may soon address this issue, with anti-piracy politicos squaring off against defenders of online privacy.

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(Adele.)
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