Durham, NC, USA – Last Thursday the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced a change in tactics in its battle against Internet file trading by filing lawsuits against large-scale file-sharers. The RIAA, the association behind the five biggest labels, plans to ferret out Internet offenders they see as violating copyright laws, and file civil and/or criminal lawsuits. As early as August, file sharers could be facing $150,000 fines.
Long seen as one of the causes for sharply declining sales, Internet file-sharing in the past forced the music industry to mount legal actions against Napster and will now turn its attention to the pursuit of individual users of Kazaa, Grokster and iMesh, all popular software packages for file sharers. The RIAA recently won a court battle which will be used to force Verizon to identify the culprits. Reasoning that file-sharing damages all artists, the RIAA has stepped up measures against what it sees as common theft.The threat seems to have worked in the short term. The announcement and a full-page ad in the New York Times, signed by various music industry trade groups and associations, coincided with a 16% drop in the number of users of Kazaa, the most popular file-sharing software. Of course this drop meant that only 3.8 million users instead of the usual 4.4 million users.
The battle hasn’t been won yet. Fears remain for the music industry as technology enthusiasts shift gears to invent newer software with the ability to cloak users’ identities. The RIAA has been warned by some that it will have to walk a fine line in order to boost industry-run file-sharing software and not further alienate music fans.