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"Illegal file-sharing is one of these cancerous straws that are breaking the camel's back."
——Lamont Dozier
RIAA DECLARES WAR
Copyright Infringement Claims Filed Against Hundreds of Major Offenders in First Round of Potentially Thousands of Lawsuits
The music industry has drawn a line in the sand.

Following on the heels of last week’s UMG announcement they would slash CD prices, the other shoe dropped.

The RIAA today announced the filing of the first wave of what could ultimately be thousands of civil lawsuits against major offenders who have been illegally distributing substantial amounts (averaging more than 1,000 copyrighted music files each) of copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks.

The org insisted these lawsuits have come only after a multi-year effort to educate the public about the illegality of unauthorized downloading and noted that major music companies have made vast catalogues of music available to dozens of new high-quality, low-cost, legitimate online services.

The RIAA did add they were willing to offer amnesty to P2P users who voluntarily identify themselves and pledge to stop illegally sharing music on the Internet. The RIAA will guarantee not to sue file sharers who have not yet been identified in any RIAA investigations and who provide a signed and notarized affidavit in which they promise to respect recording-company copyrights. Signed by a parent and an attending physician, no doubt.

Newly installed RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol talked tough: "For those who want to wipe the slate clean and to avoid a potential lawsuit, this is the way to go. We want to send a strong message that the illegal distribution of copyrighted works has consequences, but if individuals are willing to step forward on their own, we want to go the extra step and extend them this option."

Added President Cary Sherman: "Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation. But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action. We simply cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying the livelihoods of artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers, and everyone in the music industry."

Since the recording industry stepped up the enforcement phase, it claims public awareness that it is illegal to make copyrighted music available online for others to download has risen sharply in recent months.

Said Sherman, whose march against illegal P2P starts here: "We’ve been telling people for a long time that file sharing copyrighted music is illegal, that you are not anonymous when you do it, and that engaging in it can have real consequences. And the message is beginning to be heard. More and more P2P users are realizing that there are dozens of legal ways to get music online, and they are beginning to migrate to legitimate services. We hope to encourage even the worst offenders to change their behavior, and acquire the music they want through legal means."

The RIAA has also worked closely with the university community to combat piracy. In recognition of the seriousness of the problem, colleges across the country are implementing new restrictions—and issuing severe warnings—to discourage the swapping of pirated music and movies over high-speed campus Internet connections.

More than four million Instant Messages have been sent since May directly to infringers on the Kazaa and Grokster networks warning them that they are not anonymous when they illegally offer copyrighted music on these networks and that they could face legal action if they didn’t stop. The RIAA sent such a warning notice to virtually every Kazaa and Grokster user who was sued today.

"Obviously, these individuals decided to continue to offer copyrighted music illegally notwithstanding the warnings," said Sherman. "We hope that today’s actions will convince doubters that we are serious about protecting our rights."

In today’s first round of lawsuits, RIAA member companies filed copyright infringement claims against more than 250 individual file sharers. The RIAA first announced on June 25 that it would be gathering evidence in order to bring lawsuits in September against computer users who illegally distribute copyrighted music through illegal file-sharing networks..

RIAA has decided not to pursue users who step forward before being targeted for past illegal sharing of copyrighted works. Those who want to start fresh will be asked to sign a declaration pledging they will delete all illegally obtained music files from their hard drives and never again digitally distribute or download music illegally. Detailed information on how to apply and qualify for this amnesty is available at the web site www.musicunited.org.

Legendary songwriter Lamont Dozier summed up the industry’s frustration: "People are being lied to about the damage that piracy and illegal file sharing is doing to our country, not just to the music industry, but it is affecting every aspect of our lives. Each business in this country is linked to each other, and all industries are failing and the economy is falling apart. Illegal file-sharing is one of these cancerous straws that are breaking the camel's back."

BMI President Frances Preston added: "Illegal downloading of music is theft, pure and simple. It robs
songwriters, artists, and the industry that supports them or their property and their livelihood. Ironically, those who steal music are stealing the future creativity they so passionately crave. We must end the destructive cycle now."

Concluded Alligator Records President Bruce Iglauer: "No one is hurt more by the illegal ‘sharing’ of copyrighted music than the independent artist and the independent record label. Until such time as the public is jarred into awareness, it is the sad necessity that the people who create and own the music must aggressively defend themselves from having their creations stolen."

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