Last year, the RIAA announced that it would largely cease its mass lawsuit campaign. Since June of 2003, the RIAA has tried to counter the growing tide of online file-sharing and hold the line against dwindling music sales by sending monetary demands to over 30,000 individuals. The results of such a campaign were mixed. Although more people now know that music sales are dwindling, the file-sharing community continues to thrive.
The RIAA never explicitly said they would completely stop lawsuits in their entirety; mass uploaders are always under the gun. But in a December 2008 letter to Congress, RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol stated that new lawsuits would be discontinued:
"…we began discussions with New York Attorney General Cuomo, who suggested that now was the time to take our practice of last resort – lawsuits – and replace that form of deterrence with productive engagement by the ISP community in the form of graduated response programs. At his request, as an act of good faith in pursuing these alternatives, we discontinued initiating new lawsuits in August."
Since that time, sporadic cases have been launched against alleged P2P pirates. According to Recording Industry vs. The People, a blog that monitors the legal activity of the music industry, 62 "new cases" have been launched in April 2009. So what happened to this promise of discontinued lawsuits?
Slyck took a sampling of 12 cases filed in April, which are available on the legal document repository PACER. Most cases were filed by Arista and Capitol Records. Indeed, Arista and Capitol are still filing new cases as the record showed that April was a busy month for the music industry. However, the evidence used is not new, and was gathered as early as 2007. The format of our findings is presented as: P2P application/date IP was collected.
1) Ares / February 2007
2) Limewire / February 2008
3) Ares / April 2007
4) Limewire / June 2008
5) Limewire / November 2007
6) Limewire / October 2007
1) Ares / August 2007
2) Limewire / October 2007
3) Ares / April 2007
4) Limewire / 2007
5) Limewire / March 2007
6) Ares / June 2008
We can draw a few conclusions from the small sampling: the cases are not against John or Jane Does - so it seems as though the mass lawsuit campaign against unknown individuals is not longer operational. However, it seems the music industry still has a massive pool of 30,000+ individuals to choose from, making such a legal maneuver unnecessary, at least in the near term. Also, all the legal documents sampled were related to activity stemming from either Ares or Limewire clients. With FastTrack gone, most of the P2P community has migrated to BitTorrent, which was noticeably absent from the samples we collected.
Lastly, just because the music industry is not longer filing “new” cases, it doesn’t mean that new cases can’t be created from old evidence.