US music industry body announces it plans to sue individuals engaged in illegal file sharing

US music fans using MP3 file sharing networks such as Kazaa could face legal action from the body set up to represent major record companies’ interests.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has long bemoaned the ever-growing numbers of music fans obtaining music for free from the internet, and now intends to file “several hundred” lawsuits against users making “substantial” numbers of music files available for download, Ananova reports.

Debate rages as to the effects of file sharing on the music industry. The RIAA blames it for dive-bombing CD sales over recent years, while networks and users themselves insist that it is a useful and legitimate way for fans to find out about new music – and one that will not go away.

RIAA president Cary Sherman reiterated the view that file sharing is “both wrong and illegal”, and that users should not expect supposed online anonymity to prevent them from having to “face the music” over their downloading habits. Sharman Networks, who operate the hugely popular Kazaa network, accused the RIAA of “declaring war on its customers”, and said they themselves were more interested in working with record companies than against them in developing file sharing in the future.

Amongst others, Radiohead‘s just-released album ‘Hail To The Thief’ was widely distributed online before its official release, but still rocketed to the top of the charts when it eventually hit the shops.