Copyright Infringement Claims Filed Against Hundreds of Major Offenders In First Round of Potentially Thousands of Lawsuits
Lawsuits Part of Industry's Multi-Prong Approach That Includes New Business Models and Education
WASHINGTON (September 8, 2003) -The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced today that its member companies have filed the first wave of what could ultimately be thousands of civil lawsuits against major offenders who have been illegally distributing substantial amounts (averaging more than 1,000 copyrighted music files each) of copyrighted music on peer- to-peer networks. The RIAA emphasized that these lawsuits have come only after a multi-year effort to educate the public about the illegality of unauthorized downloading and noted that major music companies have made vast catalogues of music available to dozens of new high-quality, low-cost, legitimate online services.
At the same time, the RIAA announced that the industry is prepared to grant what amounts to amnesty to P2P users who voluntarily identify themselves and pledge to stop illegally sharing music on the Internet. The RIAA will guarantee not to sue file sharers who have not yet been identified in any RIAA investigations and who provide a signed and notarized affidavit in which they promise to respect recording-company copyrights.
"For those who want to wipe the slate clean and to avoid a potential lawsuit, this is the way to go," said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA Chairman and CEO. "We want to send a strong message that the illegal distribution of copyrighted works has consequences, but if individuals are willing to step forward on their own, we want to go the extra step and extend them this option."
"Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation," said RIAA president Cary Sherman. "But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action. We simply cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying the livelihoods of artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers, and everyone in the music industry."
Since the recording industry stepped up the enforcement phase of its education program, public awareness that it is illegal to make copyrighted music available online for others to download has risen sharply in recent months. According to a recent survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, fully 61% of those polled in August admitted they knew such behavior was against the law- up from 54 percent in July and 37 percent in early June, prior to the announcement.
"We've been telling people for a long time that file sharing copyrighted music is illegal, that you are not anonymous when you do it, and that engaging in it can have real consequences," said Sherman. "And the message is beginning to be heard. More and more P2P users are realizing that there are dozens of legal ways to get music online, and they are beginning to migrate to legitimate services. We hope to encourage even the worst offenders to change their behavior, and acquire the music they want through legal means."
Over the past year, the RIAA has also worked closely with the university community to combat piracy. In recognition of the seriousness of the problem, colleges across the country are implementing new restrictions-and issuing severe warnings-to discourage the swapping of pirated music and movies over high-speed campus Internet connections.
Additional education efforts include more than four million Instant Messages sent since May directly to infringers on the Kazaa and Grokster networks warning them that they are not anonymous when they illegally offer copyrighted music on these networks and that they could face legal action if they didn't stop. The RIAA sent such a warning notice to virtually every Kazaa and Grokster user who was sued today.
"Obviously, these individuals decided to continue to offer copyrighted music illegally notwithstanding the warnings," said Sherman. "We hope that today's actions will convince doubters that we are serious about protecting our rights."
In today's first round of lawsuits, RIAA member companies filed copyright infringement claims against 261 individual file sharers.
The RIAA announced on June 25 that it would be gathering evidence in order to bring lawsuits in September against computer users who illegally distribute copyrighted music through such peer-to-peer file distribution networks as Kazaa and Grokster. Individuals caught distributing copyrighted files on Kazaa, Grokster, Imesh, Gnutella, and Blubster were targeted in this initial round.
Since it announced its lawsuit plans, the RIAA has been contacted by a number of illegal file sharers expressing concern over their actions and wanting to know what they could do to avoid being sued. In response, the RIAA has decided not to pursue users who step forward before being targeted for past illegal sharing of copyrighted works. Instead, those who want to start fresh will be asked to sign a declaration pledging they will delete all illegally obtained music files from their hard drives and never again digitally distribute or download music illegally. Detailed information on how to apply and qualify for this amnesty is available at the web site www.musicunited.org.
Over the past year, an unprecedented campaign by a coalition of songwriters, recording artists, music publishers, retailers, and record companies has heightened music fans' awareness of the devastating impact of illegal file sharing. A series of print and broadcast ads featuring top recording artists, as well as numerous press interviews by music industry figures, have conveyed the message that file sharing not only robs songwriters and recording artists of their livelihoods, it also undermines the future of music itself by depriving the industry of the resources it needs to find and develop new talent. In addition, it threatens the jobs of tens of thousands of less celebrated people in the music industry, from engineers and technicians to warehouse workers and record store clerks.
At the same time, the industry has responded to consumer demand by making its music available to a wide range of authorized online subscription, streaming and download services that make it easier than ever for fans to get music legally and inexpensively on the Internet. These services also offer music reliably, with the highest sound quality, and without the risks of exposure to viruses or other undesirable material.
Federal law and the federal courts have been quite clear on what constitutes illegal behavior when it comes to "sharing" music files on the Internet. It is illegal to make available for download copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owner. Court decisions have affirmed this repeatedly. In the recent Grokster decision, for example, the court confirmed that Grokster users were guilty of copyright infringement. And in last year's Aimster decision, the judge wrote that the idea that "ongoing, massive, and unauthorized distribution and copying of copyrighted works somehow constitutes 'personal use' is specious and unsupported."
A number of other music community leaders expressed support for strong enforcement against egregious instances of copyright theft.
Bart Herbison, Executive Director, Nashville Songwriters Association International:
"When someone steals a song on the Internet it is not a victimless crime. Songwriters pay their rent, medical bills and children's' educational expenses with royalty income. That income has been dramatically impacted by illegal downloading, so many have reassessed their careers as songwriters. It breaks my heart that songwriters are choosing other professions because they cannot earn a living - in great part due to illegal downloading."
Thomas F. Lee, President, American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada:
"No one is eager to see copyright infringement lawsuits against individuals. But copyright infringement hurts many thousands of other individuals. Most musicians who depend on CD sales and legal downloading are not wealthy mega-celebrities. They are artists struggling to succeed without a 'day job.' They are ordinary session musicians who depend on union-negotiated payments that fall drastically when sales fall. They are songwriters who depend on royalties to put food on the table. The AFM has said it before: Musicians make music for love, but they can't afford to do it without an income. The AFM urges all music fans to support artists by using only legal means to distribute and obtain music."
Lamont Dozier, Legendary songwriter:
"I wish people who are practicing illegal file sharing would stop for a moment and think about the damage that is being done here, and step in the shoes of people who have families and children, who have been laid off from jobs they've held for over 20 years. In a time where jobs are very hard to come by, and you find yourself forced to be un-employed, because the business is falling apart, deals aren't being made, record stores are closing, lay-offs are happening world-wide in every aspect of music, from cd packers to guitar players to secretarys to hopeful songwriters and artists, who will not have a music industry any longer., People are being lied to about the damage that piracy and illegal file sharing is doing to our country, not just to the music industry, but it is effecting every aspect of our lives. Each business in this country is linked to each other, and all industries are failing and the economy is falling apart. Illegal file sharing is one of these cancerous straws that are breaking the camel's back."
Frances W. Preston, President of BMI:
"Illegal downloading of music is theft, pure and simple. It robs songwriters, artists, and the industry that supports them or their property and their livelihood. Ironically, those who steal music are stealing the future creativity they so passionately crave. We must end the destructive cycle now."
Rick Carnes, President, Songwriters Guild of America:
"It breaks my heart to see the great songs of American songwriters electronically shoplifted by the millions every day. Like everyone else, songwriters can't make a living if we aren't paid for our hard work. We have done all that we could to educate and warn the public that rampant internet piracy is killing our music. Anyone still sharing copyrighted music files without the permission of the copyright holder should know what they are doing is not only wrong, it is illegal."
National Association of Recording Merchandisers:
"NARM believes the RIAA has the right to act on behalf of copyright holders and recording artists to protect their rights, their interests and their creative works as the law provides."
Gary Himelfarb, President, RAS Records:
"In 1981, as an aspiring entrepreneur and reggae music lover, I started a small label (RAS Records) in the basement of my home right outside of Washington DC. I did this, like so many other independent label owners (of which there are literally thousands of- as compared to only 4 majors) not to make millions of dollars, but instead to create music which I loved and to have a profession that I loved doing each day.
"Over the years we created over three hundred full length CDs and I have been able to support myself and my wife and two kids. I have always considered myself to be very fortunate to do what I love, fairly compensate the artists and writers I work with and build a company that has respect and integrity within the music industry.
"The way independent labels have always made money is by selling catalog, since we are not able to promote our songs on radio and create hits, like the majors. The majors, although they also over time create impressive catalogs, depend on the sales of 'hit' records to generate the income they need to run their companies. We independents have always depended on catalog sales.
"We have always had consistent sales of our catalog titles, even if a release was 10 years old. Since the invention of Napster and other illegal file sharing activities, the independent labels have experienced a serious drop in the sales of our catalogs. It is not mere coincidence that this drop off has occurred concurrently with the advent of peoples ability to get music for free on the Internet.
"As an independent label owner who has now seen my sales consistently shrink from year to year, I am firmly against the activities of people and companies who allow my music to be illegally downloaded on the Internet. I am strongly in favor of allowing legal websites to offer my music for a fair price (and sometimes even free-with my prior permission) and look forward to participating in the legal digital distribution of music.
"If it is necessary to prosecute those who are purposely sharing large numbers of music files without regard for the artists, writers and labels that work so hard day in and day out, then so be it. If we do not get this problem under control, the public will suffer as less entrepreneurs like myself will be willing to invest their time or money into creating music catalogs for the world to enjoy."
Bill Velez, President and COO, SESAC:
"In the current atmosphere of widespread online copyright piracy, SESAC endorses efforts to protect the livelihoods of songwriters and music publishers and the sanctity of intellectual property."
Bruce Iglauer, President, Alligator Records:
"No one is hurt more by the illegal 'sharing' of copyrighted music than the independent artist and the independent record label. The struggling indies already occupy a much smaller market share than the majors. The independents' loss of income from the elimination of even a small number of sales can be the difference between whether much independent music is recorded or not. If this proliferation of the theft of the creations of artists continues, less and less music will be recorded. The public must be educated about the real results stealing music from its creators.
"It is unfortunate that the problem of illegal 'sharing' of copyrighted music has grown to the point where legal action is necessary, but that is the case. Until such time as the public is jarred into awareness, it is the sad necessity that the people who create and own the music must aggressively defend themselves from having their creations stolen."
Sharon Corbitt, Nashville Studio Manager:
"As studio manager of Ocean Way Nashville and my 19 years on Music Row, I have seen our industry go through many changes. We are faced with even larger obstacles than ever due to the illegal downloading of music on the internet. It may seem extreme to people to pursue legally those who continue to "illegally obtain music on a daily basis" . Illegal downloading of music is the same as someone walking into your home and stealing something that you had created and was of value. People make their livings creating music. The cost of a recording is covered by that recording being sold to consumers. In the end, the consumer suffers from illegal downloading because proper funding will not be available to cover the cost to produce that recording.
"A songwriter has a job just like an electrician or a computer programmer. They sit down and write songs in the hopes that their creation will be recorded by an artist and eventually purchased by the consumer. That's how they make their money. By illegally downloading music we are effecting the creation of the music itself. The quality of music will suffer and the consumer will in return suffer. Music is healing. You would only want the best medicine and doctors to fight a disease. Illegal downloading is not allowing the 'best cure' to find its way to the person seeking healing. Something has got to change or we are all going to regret what the final outcome will be, no more quality music, fewer healing words..."
Courtney Proffitt, Executive Director of the Association for Independent Music:
"The Association for Independent Music has been educating people for the past year that online music piracy is hurting everyone in the music industry - not just the major labels. The independent sector has been hard hit the past few years, even though this is the sector that often has the most innovative and creative music production. The small indie labels are struggling to promote and sell their music, in order to stay in business. If they are not getting paid for the music they create, they cannot continue to operate. This results in a loss to our overall culture.
"Many talented musicians are no longer receiving royalty payments that they have been depending upon as income. These royalty payments were supporting them and helping them to continue their craft: creating new music for the public's enjoyment. With the loss of this revenue, many musicians have had to quit and find "day jobs" to make a living. I consider this to be a loss for everyone.
"Additionally, my organization has independent music retail as members. Many of the independent music stores have lost revenue due to illegal downloading, and loss of customer base. They are having trouble continuing to stay in business as the "local record store." Many have been forced to close their doors due to this downturn in business, and it also affects the economy of the community where they are located.
"I urge people to be aware of this situation, and the consequences that are the result of illegal downloading of music. It is not just hurting an anonymous "music industry". It is hurting real people such as the artists who create the music, people who promote and distribute the music, all the way to the music store clerk who works at your local music retailer."
Chuck Cannon, President, Wacissa River Music, Incorporated:
"I'm a professional songwriter. This means I provide for my family by receiving a royalty when a CD containing one of my songs sells. This also means if you acquire possession of one of my songs without paying for it, you have intercepted my paycheck. That makes you a criminal.
"If you engage in illegal downloading, that is, if you download a song without paying for it, you are a common thief. If you allow your children to engage in illegal downloading, you are telling them 'in our home, thievery is acceptable.' If you are a college administrator and you turn a blind eye to illegal downloading on your campus, you are encouraging larceny in your hallowed halls of education."
Mike Negra, President, Mike's Video:
"Mike's Video continues to see the effects of illegal downloading and burning. Our chain has shrunk from five stores to one, resulting in a loss of 12 music-oriented jobs and over $2 million dollars a year in music revenue. Even with that consolidation, we face an uncertain future due to the core customers of our town, 42,000 Penn State University students. This year's results to date show sales down 45% overall versus 2002. The single store comparable is down 6.2%.
"The message of zero tolerance towards digital thievery needs to be delivered to those who continue to ignore the obvious. The facts of the situation are people are buying less music and record stores are going out of business. This is a direct result of illegal downloading and burning and is especially prevalent in college towns such as State College.
"The story of stores like Mike's is being played out across the country next to or on college campuses. It is one the downloading public isn't aware of or concerned about. I applaud the effort the RIAA has given this problem but I don't believe either of us are satisfied with the results. The continuation of lawsuits and awareness towards the overall ill effects throughout the industry is paramount if we hope to save the industry we all love.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help save or reshape the music business and change the attitudes that exist. Maybe it will help personalize the deep effects this so-called victimless crime has had."
Cecilia Carter, the R&B Foundation:
"The R&B Foundation provides medical and financial assistance to older musicians. Many of the people we serve can barely survive without our help and the few dollars they receive from royalty payments. The downloading and sharing of music files, negatively impacts the amount of royalty payments received by our artists. Although the amount of money may seem insignificant at the time you are getting it for free, it can mean the difference in a musician's ability to pay rent or face homelessness. We strongly support the music industry's effort to stop free downloading and file sharing. It is a matter of survival to our constituents."
John W. Styll, President, Gospel Music Association:
"The gospel music community has not been immune from the financial damage caused by those who illegally obtain music through downloading. Some may argue that it is an act of ministry to give Christian music away. The GMA certainly believes that it is good for people to be exposed to the message of gospel music, just as it would be good for people to read the Bible, but stealing either music or Bibles cannot be justified. It's unfortunate that the music industry has had to resort to prosecution to deter theft, but there seems to be no other choice and thus we lend our support. And as believers in the concept of grace, we are glad to support the amnesty program as well."
Dale Mathews, President, Christian Music Publishers Association:
"The surge and volume of illegal file-sharing over the past several years cry out for action rooted in strength. This latest legal action by the Music Coalition meets that criteria and is supported by the Church Music Publishers Association. We feel it is the small, grass roots writer who is most severely damaged by the all too common illegal acts of file-sharing."
Members of the Tennessee Songwriters Association:
"It is, of course, illegal. It robs from everyone. Many great songs will never be heard because they will not be on a CD or cassette with a hit song. If a CD sells a million so does every song on it. If someone downloads only one song, the others will never be heard."
"I am a songwriter, and even though I have not received any royalties to this date, I think it is so absolutely absurd that people have the mentality about using someone else's product for free."
"I think we need TV and radio spots like Hollywood is doing for illegal movie downloading. Creating a legal downloading system is the key. I would infiltrate illegal sites with legal downloading options that pop up like some other sites are now doing effectively. More artists & writers need to tale the risk and stand up and take a public stand on this matter."
"Doesn't illegal say it all? This is against the law. Music is a creative intellectual property and the creators are entitled to earn a profit. They own it and no one should steal their work. Great music comes with a price, because it is priceless."
"It's wrong, but people won't stop doing it until they fear the penalty for doing so. The current industry approach is the correct response - go after them."
"I'd like to ask one question of those who defend this illegal activity. How would you like it if I just waltzed into your house and walked out carrying every belonging of yours I felt like owning and not paying for? That's how I feel about it."
"Illegal music downloading is a form of theft, the taking of intellectual property. Such theft degrades the songwriting profession greatly."
"More education is needed on illegal downloading to let people know that even though the record companies and recording artists may be filthy rich, most songwriters are not."
"Downloading music from the Internet is nothing more than stealing, plain and simple. It is also an easy way steal. It's about time people in the music industry come together and legally put an end to this abomination."
Hugh Prestwood, number-one Country Music hit songwriter:
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the great majority of you truly feel no guilt about the "sharing" of what I have created and own -- my music. You have lumped together many professions - artists, songwriters, engineers, producers, publishers, etc. into one big ugly corporate caricature -- a rich and corrupt industry that can be stolen from remorselessly. Additionally, in your "yes, Virginia, there is a free lunch" mentality, you have unthinkingly devalued songs to the extent that you perceive them as trifles - something of little value to be partaken and enjoyed at no cost. Moreover, you have unfairly condemned me and my record industry peers for bringing the law to bear against you. In classic "blame the victim" reasoning, you lay the responsibility for my losses at my feet, saying, in essence, that the problem is not your theft, but rather my inability to prevent it.
Well, file-sharers, I righteously say "bull." I, songwriter/publisher, labored for years to create those songs, and I really do legally own them. I - not you -- have the right to control what happens to them, a right your technology does not trump. You are dead wrong to simply give my songs away and undermine my only chance to profit from my creations. Don't tell me that I should gracefully pardon your hand in my pocket. Don't insinuate to me that, because your thievery is so facile, perhaps I should find some other way to make a living. Your "hobby" is taking the bread off my table, and I have every right to use any and all legal means possible to discourage your destructive practices.
Let us come together. You often love what I create, and I need to make a living. I have been trying for several years now to find a way for us both to be happy - where you can easily acquire my songs and I can be justly rewarded for my creativity. Try as I might, however, thus far I have been unable to find a way to compete with "free". You must help me.
First, you must wake up from your fantasy that songs should rightly be free, and that no one is being hurt by your theft. I and all my fellow songwriters (among others) are seeing our futures seriously threatened. Second, you must "raise your consciousness" to where you understand that a career in music is brutally serendipitous and difficult to maintain. The ability of artists and songwriters to have any kind of dependable, longer-term, income is entirely linked to their ability to control their copyrights. Without copyright protection, aspiring artists and songwriters had best not ever consider quitting their day jobs.
Finally, you must realize that in real life you really do get what you pay for. If you won't pay for music, you will soon be receiving a product commensurate with your thriftiness. A society that doesn't value a commodity enough to pay for it will soon see the creation and production of that commodity cease.
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The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies. Its members are the music labels that comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate recorded music produced and sold in the United States.
In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi- Platinum™ and Diamond sales awards as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.
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