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RIAA to offer file sharers amnesty – report

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The Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) will shortly offer an amnesty to individual copyright infringers, sparing alleged violators the threat of legal action if they delete all unauthorised copies of music they possess and publicly promise to be good in future.

So claim unnamed sources cited by Reuters - the RIAA itself has yet to comment on the matter.

Undoubtedly the amnesty idea has arisen out of the organisation's scheme to sue individual file sharers. Since it was outlined earlier this year, that plan has met with much criticism from the file sharing community and even one US senator, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who has described the RIAA tactics as "excessive" and is planning to investigate the matter officially in his role as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs' Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations.

Rather than send out subpoenas - a process recently made harder by a Massachusetts court ruling that they must be served locally, and not mass-mailed from the RIAA's Washington DC legal HQ - the organisation sends out demands requesting good behaviour. If the alleged copyright infringers coughs to his or her crime, but pledges not to share files in future, all well and good.

Commercial pirates, rightly, will not received such 'lenient' treatment.

The Reuters story suggests the RIAA will precede the amnesty with a volley of "several hundred" lawsuits against alleged infringers - enough, presumably, to scare the rest into coming clean. Punitive action will follow against anyone who breaks their pledge.

Either way, the move should prove more cost-effective than taking world+dog to court, and is far less likely to result in a public backlash against the organisation. As it stands, the RIAA is courting PR disaster, though with public trust in the major labels - not to mention the institution of copyright - at an all-time low, perhaps the RIAA figures it has nothing to lose.

By contrast, the amnesty offer at least gives the RIAA the appearance of handing an olive branch to small-scale infringers. ®

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