Labels target piracy suspects with settlements


The recording industry trade group will give hundreds of college students suspected of illegally sharing music online a chance to reach settlements before being sued for copyright infringement.

The move announced Wednesday comes as the industry seeks to stamp out what it is says is rampant music piracy on campuses.

The Recording Industry Association of America said it was sending letters offering discounted settlements to 400 computer users at 13 universities.

The group intends to send hundreds of such pre-litigation letters to university computer users every month.

"The theft of music remains unacceptably high and undermines the industry's ability to invest in new music," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the association.

"This is especially the case on college campuses," he said.

The letters targeted students at Arizona State University; Marshall University; North Carolina State University; North Dakota State University; Northern Illinois University; Ohio University; Syracuse University; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Nebraska, Lincoln; University of South Florida; University of Southern California; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and University of Texas, Austin.

As part of its ongoing copyright crackdown, the association has already sued about 18,000 computer users nationwide since September 2003. The figure includes about 1,000 university students.

The suits were initially filed against "John Doe" defendants, based on their Internet addresses. Many are accused of downloading music over university Internet services.

After filing a lawsuit, recording industry lawyers work through the courts to learn the name of the defendant.

The latest letters offer users a chance to settle for "substantially less," association President Cary Sherman said. He declined to provide specifics.

The association has sent three times more copyright complaints to universities this academic year than it did last year. The complaints ask the schools to take down unauthorized content being shared on their network.

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