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More song swappers sued
Record companies step up attacks against online music piracy, filing suits against unnamed users.
January 21, 2004: 5:27 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The nation's record companies Wednesday sued another 532 people for illegally distributing copyrighted music over the Internet, stepping up their attack against online music piracy.

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Record companies filed suits against 532 people for illegally distributing copyrighted music over the Internet. CNNfn's Jen Rogers reports.

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The move is part of an ongoing effort by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to protect the rights of record companies and songwriters, and to bolster the legal distribution of music online.

The U.S. recording industry filed 261 lawsuits last September against people it claimed have illegally downloaded and distributed copyrighted music.

"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," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement.

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The RIAA said that once again it would be targeting people it deemed to be "major offenders."

But a big difference between the lawsuits filed Wednesday and those in September is the group is now using what is known as the "John Doe" process to sue defendants whose names aren't known.

The lawsuits identify the defendants by their numerical computer address, or Internet Protocol address, and once the suits have been filed, record labels will be able to subpoena the information necessary to identify the defendant by name.

In December, a federal appeals court ruled that the industry's previous method for tracking down file-swappers was not allowed by law, thus the group's shift to the "John Doe" process.

The music industry has been suffering from declining sales of album and singles, according to figures from research firm Nielsen SoundScan, and the RIAA says a big reason for the decline is the proliferation of free and illegal music downloads on the Web through sites such as Kazaa, Grokster, and Gnutella.

The first wave of lawsuits and fear of litigation slowed the pace of file sharing originally, but after the appeals court ruling the pace picked up again, according to marketing research firm NPD Group.

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"It's important to keep in mind that file sharing is occurring less frequently than before the RIAA began its legal efforts to stem the tide of (peer-to-peer) file sharing," NPD Group Vice President Russ Crupnick said earlier this month. "We're just seeing the first increase in these (file-sharing) numbers."

"The debate isn't digital versus plastic. It isn't old versus new," RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol said in a statement. "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."  Top of page

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