'Click the Vote,' Sharman resist revved up campaign

The RIAA is unleashing a new wave of legal actions this week, filing 41 new lawsuits and sending 90 warning letters to digital music pirates around the country.

Expansion of the org’s ongoing legal campaign brings the total number of suits filed to 382 and letters sent to 398. RIAA has already reached settlements with 220 file sharers and cleared over 1000 people though its “Clean Slate” amnesty program.

Move comes as new signs of resistance to the influence of corporations, such as the music labels, on the digital world are popping up online. A new nonprofit group called “Click the Vote” launched Wednesday with the goal of legalizing P2P trading while fairly compensating artists and fighting to promote open software development, as opposed to the tightly controlled code of companies like Microsoft.

“People are upset about this and want these issues addressed, but they haven’t been organized,” said Click the Vote founder and CEO John Parres. “We’re going to encourage them to use P2P technology to spread information about proposed legislation, our group, and ways to get involved. We want to educate people about where their representatives stand on these issues.”

Click the Vote’s website includes a congressional scorecard based on users’ votes of how hostile or friendly Congressmen are to the group’s goals. Topping the list of “patriotic public defenders” is Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who has convened hearings to investigate the RIAA’s lawsuits against file-swappers, while Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is currently the top “special interest puppet.”

Sharman Networks, parent company of the Kazaa P2P network, has also joined the fray, recently launching a $1 million print advertising campaign in support of legalized file sharing along with a website encouraging the public to support peer-to-peer technology.

Nevertheless, the RIAA claims its legal strategy been largely successful at swinging public opinion its way, citing a poll that shows 64% of people understand it is illegal to trade copyrighted songs online, up from 37% a year ago. The RIAA-commissioned poll also found that 56% of people support the org’s lawsuits against file swappers, while just 23% oppose them.

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