- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

File sharing remains widespread a year after the Recording Industry Association of America began a legal campaign to stop music piracy.

The music industry has filed lawsuits charging 4,680 persons with copyright infringement since Sept. 8, 2003, attempting to curb a decline in music sales from $14.3 billion in 2000 to $11.8 billion in 2003.

By one measure, file sharing has increased in the past year. The number of people sharing movie and music files at any one time on services such as Kazaa and EDonkey reached 7.6 million in August, up 18 percent from 6.2 million a year earlier, according to BigChampagne, a Los Angeles company that tracks file sharing.

There is debate over the accuracy of reports to quantify the people using peer-to-peer services. But most agree the amount of file sharing has changed little since the music industry’s legal campaign started.

“This is going to be a long-term battle. If we’re holding steady, that may be the best we can hope for in the short term,” said Jay Rosenthal, legal counsel for the Recording Artists Coalition, an anti-piracy group started by singer Don Henley.

The industry hasn’t stopped file sharing because many people still don’t think that they will be caught, BigChampagne Chief Executive Eric Garland said.

But the dragnet to catch music pirates has raised awareness about copyright infringement, said Ann Chaitovitz, national director of sound recordings for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union representing about 11,000 vocalists.

“I think the lawsuits have had a positive effect in that they have educated people. People are now aware that file sharing violates the law,” she said.

Lawsuits also may have generated interest in legal online music services. ITunes, the leading online music store in a fragmented market, sold its 100 millionth song last month. Microsoft Corp. acknowledged growth in demand for online music last week when it started its own service.

“The number one strategy is to offer a legitimate alternative,” said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America.

Suing people may not have curbed file sharing, but the lawsuits have prevented rampant music piracy, said Thomas Lee, president of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents 100,000 instrumentalists and supports the music industry’s legal campaign.

“Without the lawsuits, file sharing would multiply so fast, I can’t even imagine what the numbers would be,” he said.

But the legal campaign also has fostered ill will among music fans, said Wendy Seltzer, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights advocacy group.

“It has turned more music fans against them. I’m not seeing signs that the music industry is thinking creatively. I don’t know how long they will continue throwing money at lawyers,” she said.

It also has sent people scrambling from one peer-to-peer service to another.

After the record labels shut down Napster in 2001 — it became a legal service last year and now sells music to subscribers — Kazaa became the favorite peer-to-peer service. It also became the music industry’s prime target. Kazaa users fell from 12.6 million in July 2003 to 2.3 million in July this year, said Kaizad Gotla, senior Internet analyst at technology research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

While people flee Kazaa, other peer-to-peer services are growing, and a digital cat-and-mouse game between file-sharing services and the music industry is raging.

“Kazaa isn’t growing like it once was, but other networks are. Regardless of how much success you have litigating one network out of existence,” file sharing won’t stop. “More and more people are downloading more and more music,” Mr. Garland said.

EDonkey is among the fastest-growing peer-to-peer sites with an estimated 2 million simultaneous users. It is the second-largest file sharing service behind Kazaa, and it clearly is now within the sights of recording industry attorneys.

New networks such as EDonkey, BitTorrent and Gnutella make it harder for the music industry to detect libraries of music files on a computer, Mr. Garland said.

RIAA’s Mr. Sherman said that they still can track down uploaders — the people who make music available to those downloading the files — even if more sophisticated networks require sleuths to do more work.

“We want people to understand that they can’t hide,” he said. “There is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet.”

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