RIAA: P2P Lawsuits 'Educational Tool'

The Recording Industry Association of America has initiated a new round of litigation in its ongoing quest to stamp out music piracy. A total of 761 file sharers -- primarily college students -- have been served with copyright infringement lawsuits.

Most of the individuals targeted in the suits were using "unauthorized" peer-to-peer applications such as eDonkey, LimeWire and Kazaa.

Among the schools targeted in the latest RIAA round up are: American University, Amherst College, Assumption College, Boston College, Boston University, Bridgewater State College, Emerson College, Iowa State University, James Madison University, Mount Holyoke College, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts.

While it keeps its foot on the throat of music theft, the RIAA is encouraging alternative, and legal, methods of procurement for universities and students. Roughly 25 campuses are offering students the perk of legal online music services like Cdigix, iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, and Ruckus Network. Most services are compatible with popular portable digital music players.

"During the fall, we have seen a flurry of additional agreements between schools and legal online music providers," said RIAA President Cary Sherman. "That's exciting news for the university, students, and all those involved in the creative chain of making and distributing music. The lawsuits are an essential educational tool. They remind music fans about the law and provide incentives to university administrators to offer legal alternatives."

The RIAA has presented evidence that enforcement has been an effective means to an end. According to the RIAA, "November data from Ipsos-Insight showed the percentage of Americans who have paid a fee to download music off the Internet has climbed 150 percent since late 2003."

In August, A U.S. federal appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling that developers of P2P software and services are not liable for copyright infringement committed by customers who use their products on the condition that they could not directly intervene. The ruling was seen as a major setback in the RIAA's quest to clamp down on piracy.

However, the organization's fight to identify file sharers and bring control to the archaic world of P2P carries on, and the RIAA has vowed to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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