The Recording Industry Association of America filed a new round of copyright infringement lawsuits against 532 individual computer users who it says have been illegally distributing copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks. The record trade group says it's protecting the rights of copyright holders and creating a level playing field for legitimate online music services to compete.
The 532 suits filed employ the "John Doe" process, used to sue defendants whose names aren't known. The lawsuits identify the defendants by their Internet Protocol address. Once a "John Doe" suit has been filed, the plaintiffs, which are a variety of record labels, can subpoena the information necessary to identify the defendant by name.
"The debate isn't digital versus plastic," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive officer, RIAA. "It isn't old versus new. 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."
The move follows a decision by a federal appeals court that the information subpoena process allowed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act cannot be used in infringement cases involving peer-to-peer networks.
Before filing suit, the RIAA said it would give the "infringer" an opportunity to settle.