The entertainment industry's effort to sue music pirates into submission is reaching into the next generation of the Internet with the filing of several hundred lawsuits tomorrow against college students using a faster version of the Web called Internet2.
The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group of major music labels such as Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music, found that students have been moving to Internet2 -- a network created by universities and colleges for sharing research and other academic works -- to illegally share songs after the RIAA began its lawsuit campaign against Web swappers in 2003. To date, the RIAA has sued more than 9,000 file-sharers.
"This is an emerging epidemic," RIAA president Cary Sherman said today. "We cannot allow a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules do not apply."
The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents big studios such as Warner Bros. and Sony, also said today that it would go after Internet2 file-swappers who illegally trade digital movies such as "Spider-Man" on the Internet.
"With these lawsuits, which reach from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Kokomo, Ind., our message to these thieves is clear -- you are not anonymous and you will be held responsible," said Dan Glickman, MPAA president.
During the past year, the RIAA has been monitoring the swapping of copyrighted material, such as songs and movies, via a relatively new file-sharing device known as "I2hub," which, like Kazaa and Grokster, lets users trade song files for free over Internet networks, Sherman said.
The Supreme Court is considering a case concerning Grokster and other file-sharing Web sites.
The music and movie industries say the sites are responsible for the illegal activities of their users and should be held liable. Grokster and others say they are protected by the court's 1984 "Betamax" decision that ruled that companies that make VCRs are not responsible for potential copyright violations by consumers using them.
In this round of lawsuits, Sherman said the RIAA is targeting students at 18 schools, including Boston University, Harvard University, Ohio State University, University of Southern California and Michigan State University. He said his group is limiting itself, at least initially, to 25 suits per school.
The average number of music files on defendant's computers is 2,300, Sherman said, with one computer containing as many as 3,900 songs.
Sherman acknowledged that his group found non-infringing files on users' computers, but many more illegally obtained files.
"We didn't see many copies of the Bible or works of Shakespeare," he said.
Songs can be downloaded on Internet2 in 20 seconds, Sherman said, with movies taking less than five minutes. This marks a significant speed advantage over the Web, Sherman said, where it can take one to two minutes to download a song and well over an hour for a movie.