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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008 8:22 a.m.

RIAA drops lawsuits in battle against illegal downloading

After suing tens of thousands of people, including 19 at GW, the Recording Industry Association of America announced on Friday that it will no longer pursue mass lawsuits.

But don’t go on a celebratory Limewire binge yet—spokespeople for the recording industry insisted they are not giving up on their campaign to prevent illegal downloading.

Instead, the RIAA said it plans to use internet service providers (known as ISPs) to slow down or even cut off internet access to suspected music pirates, a strategy that has already drawn skepticism and concern. In a plan outlined to the Wall Street Journal, the RIAA said it has worked out preliminary agreements with major ISPs to warn users who make music available for others to download by e-mail that their activity is illegal. If the user continues to share files, the ISP will send additional e-mails and slow the user’s service before possibly cutting it off entirely.

RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol told the Wall Street Journal that he believes notifying individual users will deter people from downloading music illegally.

“Part of the issue with infringement is for people to be aware that their actions are not anonymous,” Bainwol said.

But some critics have already questioned the group’s new tactics.

“What this means is that ISPs have now gone into the enforcement business, and this has always been one of the greatest fears of those who have wanted ISPs to remain neutral,” wrote Greg Sandoval, who covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News.

GW’s own encounter with the RIAA ended in May when the University handed over nine names from the original list of 19. The RIAA immediately withdrew the lawsuit against the students and sought to settle the cases out of court, a strategy the group used to extract settlements averaging $3,500 for those slapped with a lawsuit during the five year suing spree, according to the Associated Press.

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