Recording Industry Association of America Forces File Sharers to Face the Music

On Monday, September 8, 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued 261 individuals foralleged violations under federal copyright laws. These defendants, described by the music industry as "major offenders", are accused of distributing on averagemore than 1,000 copyrighted music files each through peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, such as Kazaa and Morpheus.A disturbing aspect about these lawsuitsis that the RIAA's so-called "major offenders" in many instances are parents, grandparents, children, teenagers, and college professors, many of whom claim to have never even used the file-sharing networks themselves. Instead, in many instances, the individuals sued have been implicated due to the downloading activities of their children, grandchildren, or other family members.A large number of the alleged infringers also claim to have been completely unaware that downloading and sharing music files was illegal. The RIAA has warned it could file thousands more lawsuits under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a federal law designed to protect copyright holders from unauthorized distribution and replication of their materials over digital media, such as theInternet. The DMCA was signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 1998. The first wave of lawsuits came as part of the RIAA's aggressive anti-piracy campaign, designed to halt the downloading of music files which the industry blames for the current downturn in music sales. File sharing per se is not unlawful. Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology is often used in lawful and constructive ways such as, for example, when professors place their lectures on university P2P networks, when researchers share the results of their studies and analyses with each other, or even when a band decides thatit will authorize sharing of its music. However, many people use the popular P2P software to engage in extensiveinfringement of copyrighted works, including music, movies, computer software, video games, and photographs, often times unaware that they are doing anythingunlawful.The basis for copyright law is found in Article I of the U.S. Constitution and codified in Title 17 (the "CopyrightAct") of the United State Code.


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