The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed new lawsuits against 762 people it suspects of distributing its songs for free over Internet peer-to-peer networks. That brings the total to about 5400 people sued over the past year.
Though it has successfully sued thousands of individuals, the RIAA has had less luck with the peer-to-peer networks. Courts so far have held that networks cannot be held liable because, like VCR makers, they do not commit copyright infringement but merely make it possible.
The RIAA pushed Congress to lower that standard by passing legislation that would hold liable anyone who induces others to reproduce copyrighted material. Though it failed last week in the final hours of Congress before the election recess, few doubt the RIAA will be back.
As to the lawsuits, RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement that he wants music fans to enjoy music online, but in a fashion that compensates everyone who worked to create that music. Among those sued in the latest round were students at 26 different colleges and universities.
Under pressure from the music industry, many schools have taken steps to limit file sharing and at least 20 schools give students free access to industry-sanctioned download services like Roxio Napster.
The RIAA does not yet know the names of those it has sued, only the numerical addresses used by their computers. The trade group typically finds out suspects' identities from their Internet service providers during the legal proceedings. In addition to those sued anonymously, the RIAA said it had sued 68 defendants whose identities had been discovered and who had declined offers to settle.