The Recording Industry Association Of America files over 500 new lawsuits...

The RECORDING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA (RIAA) has strengthened its clampdown on illegal downloading by filing 532 new lawsuits against file-sharers.

The suits have been filed against individual ‘John Doe’s, which means that the defendants’ names are not known. Instead the cases identify the defendants by their IP (Internet Protocol) number – their computer ‘address’.

Now that the ‘John Doe’ suits have been filed, the record labels can now obtain the information necessary to identify the defendant by name.

Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA, said: “Our campaign against illegal file sharers is not missing a beat. 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.”

According to Billboard, Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA, said: “The context as we move forward has improved dramatically. The debate isn’t digital versus plastic. It isn’t old versus new.”

He explained: “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.”

Sherman added: “Continuing this education and enforcement campaign is critical to fostering an environment where both legal online music services and traditional retail outlets can flourish.

“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,” he said.

Whereas before, the RIAA were able to pre-notify illegal downloaders of potential legal action and offer them an opportunity to settle out of court; the ‘John Doe’ procedure now means this no longer possible.

However, the RIAA will now offer the defendant the opportunity to settle the case between the time of discovery of their identity and the time of the amendment to the suit to include the downloader’s name and address.

Sherman said: “We intend to continue to offer illegal file-sharers an opportunity to settle. Our enforcement program has been ongoing for many months and awareness that this activity is illegal has skyrocketed. Illegal file sharers cannot so easily claim ignorance now.”

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has said that it is winning its campaign to convert illegal file-sharers to using the new legal alternatives.

Jay Berman, IFPI’s chief executive officer, said: “We believe that the music industry’s Internet strategy is now turning the corner, and that in 2004 there will be, for the first time, a substantial migration of consumers from unauthorised free services to legitimate alternatives.”

According to BBC News, the IFPI have also warned that it will start getting tough on illegal file sharing around the world. Places expected to be targeted include Europe, Asia and Canada.

The IFPI said: “It is likely that there will be lawsuits against major Internet distributors internationally in 2004, similar to those filed in the US.”