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Parents Beware, RIAA Takes Aim at Users

Monday, July 7, 2003

Previous lawsuits by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) targeted the companies which make file sharing software, which is used mostly for swapping music. However, in the wake of a recent court loss, the RIAA has announced that they will begin suing end users instead.

The RIAA has been emboldened by a recent win against Verizon. In that case, the RIAA used the DMCA to force Verizon to turn over the names of two of its customers. The RIAA alleged that the user was sharing copyrighted songs on the Internet.

The RIAA is targeting several hundred of the 57 million Americans who use file sharing software. They said they would go after users that share a "substantial" amount of music but did not provide a hard set limit. In the case against Verizon, the RIAA claimed that one of the customers had 500 songs on their computer.

Many -- if not most -- of the computers that come in for service have file sharing software installed and comparable amounts of files. Many parents are not even aware that file sharing software exists on their system, nor the spyware and adware that usually piggy backs on top of the file sharing software.

This means that many of our customers may be targeted by the RIAA. Many parents whose children have installed the software on their computer are exposing themselves to the risk of a lawsuit. The punishment for illegally distributing copyrighted material can include fines of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and several years of jail time. Despite this, file sharing is up as much as 10% since the RIAA made its announcement.

Though the RIAA is no friend of ours, it would seem only prudent to ensure that your computer is not sharing any copyrighted material. In fact, the safest play would be to uninstall any file sharing software installed on your computer. The RIAA has posted instructions for several of the more popular applications, but we recommend having a computer professional uninstall the programs for you because they can also get the spyware and adware left by the uninstall.

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