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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Music industry starts legal fight
Music download
The RIAA may offer to turn a blind eye if people promise to delete files
The US music industry has started legal action against hundreds of people accused of sharing music files without permission online.

The lawsuits, filed in federal courts across the United States, had been widely expected.

The legal action is controversial, with many observers accusing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) of being heavy-handed.

Those found guilty face fines of up to $150,000 (100,000) per song swapped.

Exactly 261 people received lawsuits on Monday on behalf of Universal Music Group, BMG, EMI, Sony Music and Warner Music, following the RIAA's announcement in June that individual file-sharers would be targeted.

It is the public and the artists that should be suing the RIAA and its members for anti-competitive, monopolistic practices
Martin, UK

RIAA president Cary Sherman said he hoped the legal action would prompt parents to pay more attention to potentially illegal activities by their children.

"We expect people to say 'It isn't me, it was my kid,' but someone has to take responsibility," Sherman said.

More lawsuits are expected to follow after Monday's initial set.

The actions resulted from subpoenas sent to internet service providers and others seeking to identify roughly 1,600 people the RIAA believes engage in illegal music sharing.

Despite the $150,000-per-song possible fine, the RIAA has said it would be ready to come to an agreement on each case.

The recording industry is also expected to announce an amnesty for people who admit they illegally share music online.

They must, among other things, promise to delete any illegally downloaded music and not swap files illegally again.

But those people targeted by Monday's lawsuits would be ineligible.

The music industry says file-sharing is a violation of copyright laws and blames the practice for a drop in CD sales worldwide.

The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"US law allows downloaders to be sued for 100,000 per track"

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