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Updated The Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) has began a legal spat with a man who copied CDs he had bought onto his computer.

Jeffery Howell of Scottsdale, Arizon has taken his case to court after he received a letter from the RIAA, reports the Washington Post.

The RIAA, which lobbies on behalf of a music industry hammered by tumbling sales as fans increasingly turn to free downloads and file sharing for their listening pleasure, insists that it is illegal for someone who has legally bought a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

And, it seems that Howell is the latest individual the RIAA has singled out for special treatment in its legal pantomime.

RIAA lawyer Ira Schwartz argued in a lawsuit brief filed earlier this month that the 2,000 or so MP3 files Howell created were "unauthorised copies" of copyrighted music.

So far it is unclear as to how and why Howell was targeted by the RIAA. There doesn't seem to be any suggestion that the MP3s were made available to all comers.

On its website the RIAA states: "If you make unauthorised copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

Indeed, underlining its uncompromising stance over what it sees as online music theft the RIAA has already sued Jammie Thomas, a single mother living in Brainerd, Minnesota who ended up in civil court for copyright infringement.

She was stung with a $222,000 fine after the jury returned the verdict that Thomas was liable for wilfully infringing the copyrights on 24 songs.

The RIAA said that it will continue its legal battle against customers that it believes are breaking the law by copying CDs onto their computers.

According to the Washington Post a RIAA spokesman said: "It's not our first choice, but it's a necessary part of the equation. There are consequences for breaking the law."

Of course it remains to be seen whether the industry's inflexible attitude toward a rapidly changing landscape in which fans consume music will hold water in the long game. But this latest move by the big record companies to hold individuals personally responsible perhaps signals how weak at the knees they have truly become. ®

Update

The RIAA has since rubbished the Washington Post story as "wrong".

In a statement, the organisation said:"As numerous commentators have since discovered after taking the time to read our brief, the record companies did not allege that ripping a lawfully acquired CD to a computer or transferring a copy to an mp3 player is infringement.

"This case is about the illegal distribution of copyrighted songs on a peer-to-peer network, not making copies of legally acquired music for personal use."

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