The Recording Industry Association of America's announcement on June 25 that it will start tracking down and suing users of file-sharing programs has yet to spook people, say developers of these applications.
"Forget about it, dude -- even genocidal litigation can't stop file sharers," said Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, one of several systems that allow users to upload and download files -- many of which are unauthorized MP3 copies of songs published by the RIAA's member companies. Rosso said file-trading activity among Grokster users has increased by 10 percent in the past few days. Morpheus, another file-trading program, has seen similar growth.
Maybe MP3 downloaders are interpreting the recording industry's threat -- an escalation from its earlier strategy of targeting file-sharing developers -- as a sort of "last call" announcement. Starting June 26, RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a news conference, the group would collect evidence against consumers illegally trading files of copyrighted music, with lawsuits to follow in a couple of months.
Or maybe consumers figure the odds of getting busted by the RIAA's legal team are low: A recent report by research firm Yankee Group estimates that 56 million people use file-swapping software in the United States.
Either way, the number of users seems to have grown last week.
"Anytime you get media attention, you get people interested to try it out," said Michael Weiss, chief executive of Streamcast Networks Inc., which developed Morpheus.
Weiss said he's also seen a surge of postings on Morpheus message boards from users who are ticked off at being in the RIAA's cross hairs. "People are just outraged at the actions of the recording industry," he said. "I've got people saying they want to organize groups to boycott buying CDs now."
Weiss said the recording industry should lobby for special taxes on CD burners and Internet access as a way to recoup losses incurred from file sharing, an idea that Grokster's Rosso also supports. Rosso was in Washington recently to talk to lobbyists about forming a coalition of file-sharing firms.
The RIAA has not expressed interest in that idea. As for any recent increase in file-sharing traffic, RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss said the organization would not discuss it.
But she said, "We're not looking for overnight miracles here."