Music piracy suit targets 261 downloaders

The lawsuits, filed in federal courts around the country, targeted people who make songs on their computers available to others online — making a distinction between people who download and those who distribute. The suits did not name Internet file-sharing services like Kazaa, Gnutella and Grokster, which enable the downloading of millions of songs.

By late Monday, no suits had been filed in Sacramento, but about 20 were filed in federal courts in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

Executives at the Recording Industry Association of America said they had exhausted other remedies and that swinging a legal hammer is the only way to stem music downloading, which they calculate has contributed to a 14 percent decline in revenue and a 26 percent plunge in CD shipments between 1999 and 2002.

“Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation,” association President Cary Sherman said in a prepared statement. “But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action.”

The RIAA has steadily stepped up the legal pressure, including suing four students last spring for making thousands of songs available over their college network.

Several record companies — Capitol Records, Elektra Entertainment, Virgin Records America, Arista Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and BMG — are plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed Monday.

After a federal judge ruled that the makers of file-sharing software were not responsible for the actions of their users, the industry began subpoenaing Internet service providers for the identities of some of the most active distributors of copyrighted songs.

Linking millions of people, these peer-to-peer programs allow people to search the shared contents of other computers, then download digital music files to play on a PC, burn onto a compact disc or transfer to a player.

The RIAA also announced an amnesty program for those who have engaged in illegal file-sharing. The industry will not sue file-sharers if they delete illegally obtained music from their computers and dispose of any CDs onto which they’ve burned those songs. File-sharers also must submit a notarized statement swearing they will no longer engage in illegal downloading.

Gartner Group analyst Mike McGuire said the amnesty appears to be a way for parents to head off potential litigation against their children. Forms were to be made available at www.musicunited.org.

But Glenn Peterson, an intellectual property attorney with McDonough Holland & Allen in Sacramento, said such an amnesty doesn’t shield individuals from prosecution by law-enforcement agencies or music publishers.

“If people sign it, they might think that’s the end of (any liability), and that’s not the case,” said Peterson, whose firm represents an individual whose records were subpoened by the RIAA.

Under Monday’s suits, defendants could be liable for $750 to $150,000 for each copyrighted work that was illegally copied or distributed, the RIAA said.

The RIAA has targeted individuals who have an average of 1,000 or more songs available on their computers for others to download.

Such penalties might persuade many music swappers to scale back their downloading, experts say. A survey by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research said 69 percent of the most active downloaders would stop if faced with serious fines or jail time.

Among those sued Monday was a 12-year-old New York schoolgirl who gets a kick out of nursery songs and TV themes. Brianna LaHara, a curly-haired honor student, couldn’t believe she’s one of the “major offenders” the music moguls are after.

“Oh, my God, what’s going to happen now?” she asked after hearing of the suit. “My stomach is all in knots.”

Experts had predicted a large number of the suits likely would name youngsters.

At California State University, Sacramento, student Gabe Huffman of Carmichael said he’s sharply curtailed his downloading. “Ever since I’ve heard about the suits, I haven’t done it as much,” he said.

But Chris Elane of Redding said he sees no reason to stop. “I keep doing it because it’s free,” Elane said. “It’s illegal, to an extent, but everyone is doing it, so I might as well, too.”

Fear of lawsuits isn’t likely to send music lovers flocking back to record stores, and might even alienate them further, said Barry Sosnick, who follows the retail music industry for Adams Media Research Inc. in Carmel.

“The RIAA has gone negative on its customers. It’s going to be very hard to win those customers back,” Sosnick said. “Instead of suing people, the music industry should spend heavily marketing the product and convincing consumers that music is worth the money.”

On the other hand, Gartner analyst McGuire said the industry needs to make an example of the biggest violators. “I think spanking a couple of those folks is not a bad idea,” McGuire said.

Analysts said that if illegal downloads become too legally costly for most file-sharers, music lovers might switch to the legitimate online sites such as Rhapsody and Apple’s iTunes Music Store, where they can pay by the song.

Source: Sacramento Bee

Gaming

From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for March 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Computing

USB4 will be the fastest and most uniform USB standard yet

USB4 is on the horizon and alongside a massive boost in speed it's also unifying with the Thunderbolt 3 standard to help finally create a singular wired connection protocol that all devices can enjoy.
Computing

The U.S. government plans to drop $500M on a ridiculously powerful supercomputer

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to build a $500 million exascale supercomputer by 2021. The project, known as the Aurora supercomputer, is expected to boost research efforts in fields such as public health.
Product Review

4K and 144Hz? Yup, the Acer Predator XB3 will max out your gaming PC

The Predator XB3 isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you have a system that can push over 100 frames per second in 4K screen resolution, this monster of a monitor might be the perfect match for your overpowered gaming rig.
Buying Guides

Apple has powered up its iMac lineup, but which one should you opt for?

With new processors and graphics cards for both the 4K and 5K models, the iMac feels like a good option for creatives again. But which should you buy? Here's our guide to choosing the right Apple all-in-one for your needs.
Computing

HP spring sale: Save up to 58 percent on laptops, desktops, printers, and more

From now until March 23, the HP spring sale lets you take as much as 58 percent off of a huge range of laptops, desktop PCs, printers, and more, potentially saving you more than $1,000. We’ve rounded up a dozen of the best deals right…
Computing

Yes, Apple’s new iMacs look great, but they do have one glaring problem

With processors ranging up to the eight-core Core i9, the 2019 iMac update looks like a pretty solid upgrade to Apple's classic all-in-one. But hidden in the details of the product page, there's one outdated component Apple is holding onto.
Computing

Grab 1 terabyte of SSD storage for just $100 with this sale on Amazon

If you're looking for an excellent opportunity to pick up a 1TB SSD at a low price, Amazon has you covered with Samsung's 860 QVO 1TB 2.5-inch SATA III Internal SSD. It is an excellent offering for both multimedia enthusiasts and gamers.
Computing

The iMac finally got updated, but how does it compare to the Mac mini?

Apple announced a long-awaited update to the Mac mini. Thanks to the updated specs and increase in price, it's begun to creep up to the base model iMac. In this guide, we now put up the specs on the newest refreshed Mac mini against the…
Computing

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.
Computing

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.