The Recording Industry Association of America today (Sept. 8) announced the filing of more than 250 copyright-infringement suits against individual peer-to-peer network users accused of trading massiv

The Recording Industry Association of America today (Sept. 8) announced the filing of more than 250 copyright-infringement suits against individual peer-to-peer network users accused of trading massive amounts of copyrighted music. At the same time, the trade group confirmed its amnesty program that will let individual online infringers off the hook if they change their ways.

The new lawsuits extend a course of action begun earlier this summer, when the RIAA began issuing hundreds of subpoenas against consumers allegedly sharing copyrighted music. The trade group says the suits have been filed only against those who have been illegally distributing "substantial amounts" of copyrighted music -- averaging more than 1,000 files each -- over P2P networks.

The RIAA says the suits come "only after a multi-year effort to educate the public about the illegality of unauthorized downloading" and noted that "major music companies have made vast catalogs of music available to dozens of new high-quality, low-cost legitimate online services."

Meanwhile, as expected, the RIAA unveiled its amnesty program, which will apply only to alleged infringers who have not been sued by the trade group or identified by Internet service providers as a result of the trade group's subpoena process. Alleged commercial pirates will not receive amnesty.

The RIAA says it will not pursue legal action if infringers delete all unauthorized music files from their computers, destroy all copies (including CD-Rs) and promise not to upload such material in the future. Each infringing household member will have to send a completed, notarized amnesty form to the RIAA, with a copy of a photo ID. Those who renege on their promise will be subject to charges of willful copyright infringement.

More information can be found at MusicUnited.org.

"For those who want to wipe the slate clean and to avoid a potential lawsuit, this is the way to go," RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol says in a statement. "We want to send a strong message that the illegal distribution of copyrighted works has consequences, but if individuals are willing to step forward on their own, we want to go the extra step and extend them this option."

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