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"The debate isn’t digital versus plastic. It isn’t old versus new. Here’s what it is: Legitimate versus illegitimate. It’s iTunes and the new Napster and Wal-Mart, Amazon, Dell, Real, Microsoft and others versus Kazaa, Imesh and Grokster."
——RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol

RIAA GOES FOR THE DOE

Filing 532 New Suits Against Anonymous P2P Users, Org Claims Growing Success
The ever-vigilant RIAA announced a new round of suits against Internet users accused of illicit file-sharing today, circumventing a legal hurdle recently imposed by a federal appeals court. The biz-advocacy group once again—brace yourselves—claimed to have made big progress in the battle against unauthorized swapping.

The "John Doe" suits, so named because they are filed against unknown users’ IP addresses, were filed against 532 people. Plaintiff rights holders then subpoena to learn the names of alleged offenders.

Previously, the plaintiffs issued subpoenas to Internet Service Providers demanding the names behind the IP numbers, then filed suit. But the RIAA and its constituents were handed a defeat when a federal appeals court ruled that such demands were not covered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

"Our campaign against illegal file sharers is not missing a beat," said RIAA prexy Cary Sherman. "The message to illegal file sharers should be as clear as ever we can and will continue to bring lawsuits on a regular basis against those who illegally distribute copyrighted music."

Since the organization previously contacted defendants in its suits to offer them a chance to settle (as well as take the digital-user equivalent of a loyalty oath), Sherman said that the same amnesty opportunity would be offered to those named in the new suits, once they were named (and prior to the suits being amended from numbers to names).

Clearly, industry advocates believe the plethora of paid-download outlets on the Web bolsters their cause.

"The context as we move forward has improved dramatically," noted the org’s Chairman/CEO, Mitch Bainwol. "The debate isn’t digital versus plastic. It isn’t old versus new. Here’s what it is: Legitimate versus illegitimate. It’s iTunes and the new Napster and Wal-Mart, Amazon, Dell, Real, Microsoft and others versus Kazaa, Imesh and Grokster. It’s whether or not digital music will be enjoyed in a fashion that supports the creative process or one that robs it of its future."

"Continuing this education and enforcement campaign is critical to fostering an environment where both legal online music services and traditional retail outlets can flourish," said Sherman. "Virtually every week, we see evidence that the music community’s anti-piracy program is having its intended effect. Awareness and legal downloads are up, while many analysts are finding that file sharing is down."

Perhaps, though one recent survey suggests the exact opposite. And interestingly, today’s announcement from Kazaa’s Australia-based parent company, Sharman Networks, seemed designed to muddy the distinction so scrupulously laid out by Sherman and Bainwol.

The EMI/Capitol-distributed Songs for Life, the all-star AIDS benefit anthology featuring music from John Lennon, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child and Britney Spears, among others, will be offered for $13.99 on Altnet, the paid tier of the company’s P2P network. Thus a "legit" service with a sharing component is built on the back of what is arguably the world’s most notorious functioning unauthorized swappery.

Bit of a conundrum, eh? But as the digital world continues to evolve, things will only get stranger. Just don’t sue us for saying so.

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