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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Music firms claim public backing
Music download
The RIAA says it is only after "substantial" offenders
The US music industry has said a slim majority of the public supports its campaign against online song-swappers.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released a survey showing that 52% backed the move.

It questioned 800 people for the poll, two days before targeting 261 individuals for distributing songs on the internet without permission.

The RIAA says piracy is hitting sales, but critics say CD prices are too high.

In the survey, 52% said they supported the music industry's position, while 21% said they did not support it.

"These results show that our message is definitely getting through," said Mitch Bainwol, the RIAA's chairman and chief executive.

Legal troubles

However, the association is facing a barrage of criticism for taking ordinary citizens to court.

Many defendants named in the lawsuits said they were not aware they were breaking the law and were first informed of their legal troubles by the media.

One person named in the lawsuits was Jeani Ziering of Manhattan, New York.

Her 26-year-old son - who said he was living on welfare benefits and only had $100 in his bank account - told the Reuters news agency it was him who had been downloading tracks using the internet.

"I just heard about it from another reporter. I haven't been doing it in a while and took the songs off my computer," said the son, who was not named by Reuters.

"I'm just listening to the music I already own. I took it off my hard drive because it was taking up too much room on my computer."

Under copyright law, defendants could face penalties of up to $150,000 (94,000) per song, but settlements are expected.

Pete Fader, a marketing professor from the University of Pennsylvania, said the lawsuits were "a terrible mistake".

"I think there's lot of ways to stop piracy and encourage more positive behaviour," he said.

The RIAA insists it is only going after those that download "substantial amounts" of copyrighted songs.

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