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Love the new MP3? Watch the downloading
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    Today is Christmas, and many, many happy campers are gazing contentedly at their new MP3 players – Zunes, iPods, SanDisks, etc. Oh the joy that technology brings to young and old alike.
    This is not an attempt to burst your state of euphoria.  I just feel it is my obligation to step outside of my boundaries a little bit and forewarn you before you begin to download tunes like there is no tomorrow.
    According to a press release issued several days ago, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), on behalf of the major record companies, filed copyright infringement lawsuits on December 14 against eight individuals in Georgia. The lawsuits were filed in federal district courts in Atlanta, Dublin, Macon, Newnan, and Statesboro.
    That's right, one of our own has been "busted." Since the Napster lawsuit several years ago, the recording industry has been aggressively fighting back against unlimited uploading and downloading of copyrighted material because of the vast amount of sales revenue they are losing.
    The RIAA said the new lawsuits filed cite individuals by name for illegally distributing copyrighted music on the Internet via unauthorized peer-to-peer (P2P) services such as Lime Wire. The names of these individuals were subpoenaed from their respective Internet Service Providers (ISP).
    "The holiday season is an exciting time for music fans, who have a variety of choices when it come to purchasing music legally," said Cary Sherman, president of RIAA. "Songlifting takes a tremendous toll on songwriters, record store owners, studio musicians, and scores of other industry professionals."
    "It is our preference to target the businesses that encourage piracy but it's also important to send a message to individuals that engaging in the theft of music is illegal and has consequences," he said.
    Jonathon Lamy, spokesman for the RIAA, said since September 2003, there have been over 18,000 cases of copyright infringement filed for illegally uploading and downloading of material.
     "Of the cases that have been filed, 4,500 settlements have been reached," Lamy said. "This is an ongoing, anti-piracy program and we are going to continue to adjust strategies to find those who are conducting these illegal activities."
    Lamy said each illegally distributed song carries a potential penalty of $750 to over $150,000.
    "Under the law there is no distinction between downloading and uploading," Lamy said. "Downloading only is not a way to escape liability. We file against that activity as well."
    Local attorney, Stephen Rushing, said a lawsuit such as the ones filed by the RIAA should not be taken lightly.
    "Any legal action pending in federal court is serious and should be taken seriously," Rushing said.
    Reportedly, the average settlement being accepted by the record industry in these cases is around $5,000. Next time one of your children says he or she going to go and download some music, you better find out from where. Apparently, no matter what marvels technology brings, there continues to be no such thing as a free lunch. In fact, it could end up being a very expensive one.
    Until next week, I bid adieu.

    Got a scoop for Jan? Call her at (912) 489-9463 or e-mail her at jmoore@statesboroherald.net