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RIAA pushes ahead with suits, sues iMesh, stirs up Senate

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It's been a busy week for the US Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which is pushing ahead with 261 lawsuits filed last week against people alleged to have illegally downloaded music, but it has also decided to file another copyright infringement legal action, this time against iMesh, an Israel-based provider of a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

In the meantime the RIAA president promises to keep the law suits coming, while a US senate committee plans a debate on the entire affair, looking for another way out, in eight days time.

The 261 lawsuits are supposed to produce a steady stream of anti piracy messages, so it doesn't make any sense to hit a group of downloaders and then stop. And RIAA president Cary Sherman made it clear this week that another round of law suits will come next month and the month after as a constant deterrent.

The action against iMesh was also filed last week, which on the surface makes little sense, since it uses the same FastTrack P2P software which was used by Kazaa and Grokster. These two companies that have been vindicated by a US judge, who said that their software didn't encourage illegal activity and compared them to a photocopier, that could be used both legally and illegally. The RIAA is appealing that decision also.

But the RIAA reckons this time it's different and said, "Imesh's recent conduct and public statements make clear that its goal is to encourage illegal behavior."

The biggest worry though, is what happens to the RIAA's legal position if the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations decides, after its debate on September 30, that the RIAA must stop being heavy handed with private US individuals. One idea that has been mooted is that the subpoena process should be extended to require the consent of a judge, slowing proceedings down and putting the onus of proof of likely wrong doing back onto the RIAA, better protecting the privacy of individuals. If that becomes the recommendation of the Senate Committee, the RIAA will be back, virtually, to square one.

Elsewhere Verizon is still trying to appeal against the ruling that said that it had to reveal those customers that the RIAA requested via the new controversial subpoena process.

Verizon told a federal appeals court this week that the subpoenas, authorized under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, are too easy to get without the need for a judge to be involved. It believes this puts privacy and free speech at risk. Verizon also asked the court if it would limit such identity revelations to web sites that are offering illegal pirated music, and go to a judge for private ISP customers.

No ruling has yet been made in the Verizon appeal.

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