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Music industry suing 532 song swappers

The U.S. music industry is suing the file-swappers without knowing their names
The U.S. music industry is suing the file-swappers without knowing their names

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The U.S. music industry says it is suing 532 individuals in anti-piracy lawsuits even though it does not know their names.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says it has identified the song-swappers by the trail their computer leaves when they download illegal music.

The trade group has their numerical web addresses and intends to get their names and locations through traditional subpoenas.

The RIAA blames illegal downloads for a three-year slump in CD sales.

"The message to illegal file sharers should be as clear as ever -- we can and will continue to bring lawsuits on a regular basis against those who illegally distribute copyrighted music," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement.

The 532 people were targeted in four lawsuits, three filed in New York and one in Washington, D.C.

The move follows last month's decision by a Federal Appeals Court that Internet service providers do not automatically have to turn over names of customers thought to be illegally swapping music online.

Sherman said the RIAA is still considering whether to appeal the court's ruling.

The RIAA had sought to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 to subpoena information on individual computer users.

The new lawsuits are filed using the so-called "John Doe" process, which allows the recording industry to sue defendants whose names are not yet known.

"John Doe" lawsuits are more time consuming and costly for the industry, but the RIAA predicted the end result will be the same.

Sherman said this method could result in higher settlement costs for defendants.

The recording industry also says it will no longer be able to notify alleged offenders, as their identities will not be determined until later.

The RIAA will continue to offer an opportunity to settle before filing an official lawsuit.

The lawsuits are added to 382 previously filed by the industry. So far, 233 settlements have been finalized and about another 100 have been settled in principle, according to the RIAA.

The music industry has been suffering from declining sales of album and singles, according to figures from research firm Nielsen SoundScan.

The RIAA says a big reason for the decline is the proliferation of free and illegal music downloads on the Web through sites such as Kazaa, Grokster and Gnutella.

-- CNNfn Correspondent Jen Rogers in Los Angeles contributed to this report

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