The recording industry is employing a familiar technique in its effort to curb illegal file sharing, but unlike the instant messages sent by your friends, those from the RIAA don't end with a smiley-faced emoticon.
On Tuesday the Recording Industry Association of America, along with two other music organizations, employed the instant messaging function of certain peer-to-peer networks to send notes to those they suspect of infringing on their copyrights. The unexpected IM warns users that trading copyrighted songs is illegal and hurts songwriters and musicians. The message also says that by running file-sharing software, users might expose their computer and private files to the world, and it suggests uninstalling the software.
"The music industry's instant message campaign is designed to inform people that distributing or downloading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks is illegal; that they are not anonymous when they do it; and that they risk legal penalties if they engage in this illegal activity," RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement.
The initiative, which also involves the American Federation of Musicians and the Christian Music Trade Association and Gospel Music Association, comes less than a week after a federal judge determined that peer-to-peer file-sharing networks Morpheus and Grokster were themselves legal, although some of their users did unlawful things with the technology (see "Morpheus, Grokster Are A-OK, Judge Says").
"Many users of systems like Kazaa and Grokster may be under the mistaken impression that anything they do on these systems is now legal," Sherman's statement continued. "In fact, every court decision regarding peer-to-peer networks has confirmed that distributing or downloading copyrighted music without permission of the copyright owner is illegal."
Here is the music industry's instant message warning it its entirety:
"It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer. Distributing or downloading copyrighted music on the Internet without permission from the copyright owner is ILLEGAL. It hurts songwriters who create and musicians who perform the music you love, and all the other people who bring you music.
When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON'T STEAL MUSIC, either by offering it to others to copy or downloading it on a 'file-sharing' system like this.
When you offer music on these systems, you are not anonymous and you can easily be identified. You also may have unlocked and exposed your computer and your private files to anyone on the Internet. Don't take these chances. Disable the share feature or uninstall your 'file-sharing' software. For more information on how, go to http://www.musicunited.net/5_takeoff.html.
This warning comes from artists, songwriters, musicians, music publishers, record labels and hundreds of thousands of people who work at creating and distributing the music you enjoy. We are unable to receive direct replies to this message. For more information about this Copyright Warning, go to www.musicunited.net.