The Recording Industry Association of America filed 261 lawsuits in federal courts around the country today against individuals who allegedly downloaded digital music illegally. The RIAA, which represents the five biggest record labels, said the lawsuits will continue and could eventually number into the thousands.
According to statement, the individuals targeted in this initial round of litigation were sharing an average of over 1,000 songs each. Illegal trading of music on the Internet has caused CD sales to plunge by nearly a third over the last three years.
The individuals targeted in today's lawsuits will not be eligible for the new amnesty plan also announced by the RIAA. It allows file-traders who admit they illegally share music online to escape litigation in return for promising to delete all illicit downloads and to not illegally trade music again.
Under current copyright laws, the RIAA can seek damages of up to $150,000 for each song illegally downloaded. But this summer, the industry promised that its lawsuits against individual downloaders wouldn't be "excessive"; it announced today that it had reached $3,000 settlements with less than ten downloaders who would have been targeted with lawsuits.