Friday, August 6, 2004 Posted: 10:16 AM EDT (1416 GMT)
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Attorneys general from 45 states sent letters Thursday to seven companies (Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster, Bear Share, Blubster, MetaMachine/EDonkey 2000 and Lime Wire) that offer online file-sharing software, hinting at possible legal consequences if the networks don't better inform computer users about potential copyright violations from sharing files.
But a legal expert questioned how file sharing might break state laws.
The letter was signed by attorneys general from all but five states -- Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Wyoming -- the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The letter stops short of spelling out consequences if the companies don't heed the requests, but it includes references to past legal action taken by the states against suspected spammers.
It's unclear what legal action based on state law is open to the attorneys general.
States can only enforce copyright violations when it applies to sound recordings made before 1972, said Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
"I'm not aware of any state law that file-sharing violates," von Lohmann said. "This letter is clearly an exercise of political clout on the part of the entertainment industry.