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RIAA Not After Small-Timers

Industry tones down anti-piracy rhetoric

August 19, 2003 12:00 AM ET

In response to the backlash against its threats to target individual file-traders, the Recording Industry of America says it won't unreasonably prosecute people who have illegally downloaded only a small number of songs.

"[We are] in no way targeting 'de minimis' users," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement yesterday. "[We are] gathering evidence and preparing lawsuits against individual computer users who are illegally distributing a substantial amount of copyrighted music."

Sherman didn't specify what a "substantial" number would be.

After waging a largely unwinnable war against file-sharing services like Napster, the RIAA announced its intent to focus on individual users this spring. It successfully sued four college students who were running their own smaller, local versions of Napster, eventually settling with each for between twelve and seventeen thousand dollars.

At the time, the RIAA said the number individual suits would escalate, and carry penalties of up to $150,000 per illegally downloaded song.

Sherman's statement responded to congressional allegations that the RIAA's campaign is "excessive." "We assure you that we will approach these suits in a fair and equitable manner," he said, while cautioning that his organization's lenience doesn't mean that "a little illegal activity is acceptable."

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