RIAA's turning the tide as pirates capitulate

WASHINGTON — It may come as no surprise, but the positive results of recent legal action against online piracy is music to the Recording Industry Assn. of America’s ears.

Of the 204 people warned by the RIAA 10 days ago that it would sue, 124 have contacted the trade org’s lawyers and settled their disputes privately. The remaining 80 will need to call a lawyer immediately; the RIAA filed civil suits against them Thursday morning.

The RIAA insists its aggressive legal tactics are working to stem the tide of music piracy, and points to the 124 people who decided to settle matters outside the judicial system as further evidence.

After consumers and members of Congress raised concerns that pre-teens and grandmothers were being unfairly targeted by lawsuits accusing them of illegally downloading music online, the RIAA decided to soften its tactics by sending warning notices to people they were planning to sue 10 days before the actual suits were to be filed to give them a chance to settle the matter without a formal lawsuit.

“We are pleased that our efforts to extend illegal file sharers an additional chance to come clean and work out settlements are proving successful,” RIAA prexy Cary Sherman said in a statement Thursday. “The fact that the overwhelming majority of those who received the notification letter contacted us and were eager to resolve the claims is another clear signal that the music community’s education and enforcement campaign is getting the message out.”

Peer-to-peer amnesty

The 124 individuals who decided to resolve the legal issues with the RIAA brings the official settlement tally to 156 out of roughly 460 real and potential lawsuits to date. Trade org also acknowledged receiving a total of 1,000 affidavits for its “Clean Slate Program,” which offers amnesty to peer-to-peer network users who voluntarily identify themselves and pledge to stop illegally sharing music on the Internet.

The controversial lawsuits and the media attention they have received as well as new developments in the legal online music marketplace in recent weeks appear to be producing results. According to October survey data conducted for the RIAA by the Peter Hart Research Associates, the percentage of those polled who say it is “illegal to make music from the computer available for others to download free over the Internet” has skyrocketed, from 37% in November 2002 to 75% this month.

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