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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Music 'pirate' sweep nets all ages
Downloading internet music
Some computer owners have been unaware of files swapped on their PCs
A US music industry crackdown on internet music 'pirates' has sent subpoenas to allegedly unwitting parents and grandparents, court documents have shown.

Some of the industry's earliest subpoenas have identified a varied group of people, some of whom were apparently unaware their computers were being used to download songs.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has launched a legal battle to stop people uploading songs onto the internet and swapping them with other users, which it says is costing the industry millions of dollars.

Subpoenas are being sent to computer owners identified by the RIAA after winning a court case to force telecommunications companies to hand over their identities.

Under US copyright law they could face fines of $750 (477) to $150,000 (95,540) for each song downloaded.

"Within five minutes, if I can get hold of her, this will come to an end," said Gordon Pate of Dana Point, California, after being told he was being sent a subpoena because of his daughter's music downloads.


A subpoena required Comcast Cable Communications Inc, Mr Pate's phone service provider, to hand over his details. The 67-year-old confirmed his daughter Leah, 23, had installed file-sharing software on an account named in the subpoena.

"There's no way either us or our daughter would do anything we knew to be illegal," Mr Pate said and promised to remove the software.

Another person named was Bob Barnes, a 50-year-old grandfather in Fresno, California, who admitted uploading several hundred songs to the internet.

The US music industry could suffer a backlash, critics say

The RIAA's president, Cary Sherman, said the association would not discriminate against small-time users.

"The idea really is not to be selective, to let people know that if they're offering a substantial number of files for others to copy, they are at risk," he said. "It doesn't matter who they are."

But critics say the industry could suffer bad publicity if they chase small-time downloaders, and do not think they will prosecute them.

"If they end up picking on individuals who are perceived to be grandmothers or junior high students who have only downloaded in isolated incidents, they run the risk of a backlash," said Christopher Caldwell, a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer.

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