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Students angry over music piracy suits

A student listens to a free 30-second music sample of a track available for sale on Apple's online music store.
A student at University of Southern California listens to a free 30-second music sample of a track for sale on Apple's online music store.

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The recording industry filed 261 lawsuits against individual Internet music file sharers. CNN's Deanna Morawski reports (September 9)
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Music file swapping
Justice and Rights

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Anger, defiance and fear were the main reactions of college students on Tuesday after the music industry said it was suing 261 individuals for swapping illegal copies of songs over the Internet.

The Recording Industry Association of America said on Monday it sued individuals across the United States for as much as $150,000 per song distributed online, targeting the biggest users, those with large libraries of pirated music.

"If kids start getting arrested and dragged out of dorms and fined, other kids will definitely think twice before doing it," Eric Cioe, a biology student at New York University, said outside the university's library.

Focusing on individuals

But other students at NYU, located in the city where 70 of the 261 lawsuits were filed, were outraged.

Many college students upload music and make it available to others on the Internet through file-sharing programs such as Kazaa and iMesh. The new lawsuits switch the record industry's focus from those file-sharing companies to the users of file-sharing programs instead.

"This is insane, they can't just hack into our systems and track our activities. It's our property," said Lucy Chen, a sociology student who thinks downloading free music is fair because compact discs are overpriced.

RIAA members include the "Big Six" record companies: Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group; Sony Corp.'s Sony Music; Bertelsmann AG's BMG; EMI Group Plc.; and Warner Music, part of CNN's parent company AOL Time Warner.

The companies have promised to file thousands more lawsuits in the coming months against individuals who swap music. The industry believes minimizing file-sharing will stem the three-year decline in global recorded music sales.

Some students settle

Music companies and national trade bodies are pursuing individual lawsuits in Denmark, Germany, Italy and elsewhere. But the blanket region-wide lawsuit strategy, for now, will play out only in the United States where the music industry estimates roughly 90 percent of all file-sharers reside.

"I'm very worried about my brother at Johns Hopkins University. He's very involved in file-sharing and would have to get a lawyer if he gets into trouble," said one pre-law student at NYU.

Four university students who were sued earlier this year for operating campuswide music-sharing programs reached settlements under which they will pay between $12,000 and $17,500 to the recording industry.

College students have access to "peer-to-peer" networks on university computer systems which enable them to swap music with thousands of people.

"When we want to check our e-mail, we can barely connect because people are using up bandwidth to share music with 15,000 people. It's annoying," Cioe said.

Erasing tracks

Another student who refused to be identified said he uploads music and shares files, but is not concerned by the new lawsuits. "I consider myself technologically savvy, and I know how to erase my tracks," he said.

RIAA also unveiled an amnesty program for individuals not currently under investigation which would remove the threat of prosecution from those who promise to refrain from such activity in the future and erase all copyrighted music they have downloaded.

Still, law student Erica Olsen said downloading music is her best option. "Often, I just want one song from a CD, and I don't want to pay 22 bucks for it. I don't think any amount of legislation is going to force us to buy CDs."

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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