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

Computing

It took Dell years to fix 1 problem on its best laptop. Here’s how it did it

The new Dell XPS 13 moves the webcam from the below the screen to the top, finally vanquishing the one obstacle facing thin, sleek laptop displays. We have the exclusive story on how it was done.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Home Theater

Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable spreads analog joy throughout your home

It can be tough to listen to your favorite analog tunes anywhere besides the room where your turntable is located. With its MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable, Yamaha allows you to stream your tunes throughout your home.
Product Review

The Digital Storm Aventum X is an unstoppable gaming PC. Trust us, we tried

Packed with dual-Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card and a 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, the Aventum X is an infinitely upgradeable gaming PC that’s capable of far more performance than you’ll ever need.
Computing

‘Flexgate’ is the latest controversy plaguing some MacBook Pro owners

iFixit recently uncovered a new "Flexgate" issue with MacBook Pros after some consumers reported a "stage light" effect, where the backlighting on the device would fail and cause the bottom of the display to become slightly distorted.
Computing

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.
Computing

Ditch the backdrop from your photos with these handy tools

Need to know how to remove the background from an image? Here's how, whether you prefer to use a premium program like Photoshop or one of the many web-based alternatives currently in existence.
Computing

Think someone's leeching off your Wi-Fi connection? Here's how to find out

It's important to find out immediately if anyone is stealing your bandwidth. Here's how to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi using a few simple tools, along with some suggestions on improving security.
Computing

Open RAR files with the greatest of ease using these awesome applications

Few things are more bothersome than not being able to open a file when you need it most. Check out our quick guide about how to open RAR files in Windows and MacOS. We will walk you through the process, step by step.
Web

Google Chrome’s latest decision could prevent most ad-blockers from functioning

Google Chrome's newest change is cited as a step forward for speed and security, but could profoundly alter how the majority of ad-blocking extensions operate. The move potentially gives Google more control over which ads can be blocked.
Computing

Samsung permits peek at an eye-popping, 15-inch 4K OLED laptop display

Samsung is now preparing for the new OLED laptop trend and is providing a look at an eye-popping 15.6-inch 4K OLED panel that is expected to power larger premium laptops in the new year.
Computing

Latest ransomware targets gamers with a malicious sophistication

The latest piece of ransomware, Anatova, has been discovered by the security team at McAfee. Employing a smart tactic to confuse users and able to clean its tracks as it evolves, this is one tough piece of ransomware.