RIAA’s school of rock law

Org targets college crowd

WASHINGTON — The Recording Industry Assn. of America’s latest legal dragnet aimed at curbing online music piracy caught 69 individuals using university Internet connections to swap songs illegally.

The RIAA announced its latest wave of music file-sharing lawsuits Wednesday, its fourth round of suits in as many months, this time against 477 people.

Latest actions bring the number of individuals sued by the RIAA to nearly 2,500 and marks the second time this year the RIAA has sued people alleged to be using university networks to swap songs illegally. Defendants in last month’s suits included 89 college students or university employees.

The flurry of suits against those on college campuses comes despite efforts by the RIAA and several universities to curb file-sharing. The music industry trade org worked with numerous colleges to offer antipiracy education campaigns just as students were arriving on campus for fall orientation last year.

The antipiracy initiatives have continued, with several universities — including Penn State and the U. of Rochester — inking a deal with Napster to provide unlimited access to playing songs and small-fee uploads.

RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said the org does not have statistics or evidence that the antipiracy initiatives are making a dent in file-swapping activity on college campuses.

Org’s prexy Cary Sherman touted the industry’s efforts to reach out to the university community as an important part of the antipiracy education process, but, he argued, lawsuits are still necessary to drive the message home.

“Along with offering students legitimate music services, campuswide educational and technological initiatives are playing a critical role,” he said in a prepared statement. “But there is also a complementary need for enforcement by copyright owners against the serious offenders — to remind people that this activity is illegal.”

The aggressive legal strategy coincides with a campaign to steer people to legal online music alternatives such as iTunes and Napster. While legit music sales are growing, they are still only a fraction compared with the illegal peer-to-peer traffic found on such sites as Kazaa, Morpheus and Gnutella.

Several movie studios have recently greenlit plans to follow the RIAA’s lead and start suing online file-swappers who share films illegally.

Congress is also trying to find ways to lend a hand in the battle against piracy. Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti and RIAA chieftain Mitch Bainwol will testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the state of international and domestic piracy.

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