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The RIAA has launched Version 2.0 of its lawsuit filing program, suing 532 music fans in Washington and New York.

The music label mob scrapped Version 1.0 of the lawsuit program after a federal appeals court blocked the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) from acquiring file-traders' identities from ISPs via subpoenas. The RIAA has now been forced to file suits against "John Doe" defendants and to acquire their identities through a longer, more costly legal process.

The pigopolist mob reckons most of the 532 consumers had more than 800 files on their PCs. Once the trader's identity is discovered, the RIAA has graciously offered first to try and settle out of court for thousands of dollars before wringing its customer base through the legal system.

The RIAA has been blasting out lawsuits in waves since June of last year with mixed results. Peer-to-Peer file-trading appears to be rising again after a brief decline. In addition, CD sales in the UK, which has yet to face the record labels' wrath, have soared, leading some to believe that attacks against your own customer base might not be the best tactic for reviving sales.

With tens of millions of people trading files online, it will take the RIAA many years to complete the copyright sweep in the courts. To its credit though, the lobby group has implemented a firm, military approach to its program that could push things along.

One Chicago lawyer who has settled close to 20 cases for song swappers suspects the RIAA may begin to raise the average settlement price as its forced to work harder in the courts.

"They are mitigating their costs," said Charles Lee Mudd, head of Privacy Resolutions.

The average settlement with the RIAA has been around $3,000, according to Mudd. The RIAA comes in with a standard form and after a bit of chit-chat walks away with its gold. Any requests to change the wording of the document quickly pushes the cost of settling closer to $20,000.

Mudd has worked for a number of teenage clients as well as adults. None of the clients have yet asked Mudd to defend them in court.

"I would love to test my legal theories if an individual wants to take the case to court," he said. "But for most individuals, the best option is to settle, especially when they could face much higher fines down the road."

The big question is how much the RIAA's tactics will hurt its constituents in the long run.

"I think this practice will leave a distaste in peoples' mouths for a long time to come," Mudd said.

Consumers are already starting to realize that the legal, online music options pushed by the RIAA are a threat to the way they have traditionally enjoyed music and technology. It seems a tad unreasonable to sue your customer base and then expect them to buy poor quality music to fix the situation. ®

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