Yet more music downloaders have fallen foul of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Yesterday the entertainment industry trade body launched another round of lawsuits against alleged users of peer-to-peer (P2P) sites.
The latest legal action, against 493 people that the RIAA claims to have identified as sharing copyright music over the internet, brings the total to nearly 3,000.
This time the RIAA said it is not pursuing university or college users, but subscribers with commercial internet accounts from companies in 17 US states.
The lawsuits are again 'John Doe' actions because the US courts will not allow the RIAA access to individuals' information without permission to subpoena internet service providers (ISPs).
This means the lawsuits can only identify individuals by their IP addresses. RIAA lawyers will now work through the courts to request subpoenas to get ISPs to reveal the names.
"Our continuing objective is to send a message of deterrence, protect the rights of property owners, and foster an environment where the legitimate marketplace, both online and at retail, can flourish," said Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, in a statement.
So far 486 people have agreed to settle out of court and pay fines to the RIAA of between $2,000 and $3,000.
Sherman said he wanted to settle matters "expeditiously", and added: "We will continue to go the extra mile and seek to resolve these cases in a fair and reasonable manner. That's in the best interests of everyone involved."
Recent market research has shown that the RIAA's actions may be bearing fruit. Data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows an overall decline in the downloading of copyrighted material from P2P sites.
And a survey by The NPD Group last week found that the number of people using legal online services to purchase music tripled in the first quarter of 2004, compared to the same time period in 2003.
"Among music buyers who purchased both physical CDs and a song download from a legal service, the likelihood that they also downloaded a song illegally fell dramatically, from 64 per cent last year to 42 per cent in 2004," said a statement from The NPD Group.
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