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When the going gets tough, the tough get lawyers.

-Ian.

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Music Industry Ad Snipes at Downloaders 24 minutes ago Add Technology – Reuters Internet Report to My Yahoo!

By Michele Gershberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Music industry groups turned up the volume in their fight against song-swapping over the Internet on Thursday, warning Americans in a full-page newspaper advertisement that they could face legal action.

The advertisement is part of an aggressive initiative announced Wednesday by the Recording Industry Association of America (news – web sites), which said it plans to sue hundreds of individuals who illegally distribute copyrighted songs over the Internet.

The legal plans marked a sharp escalation in the battle against Internet piracy that until now had concentrated on shutting down the “peer-to-peer” services used for swapping.

Some experts said the group’s latest tactic will only alienate the general public.

“Next time you or your kids ‘share’ music on the Internet, you may also want to download a list of attorneys,” a bold print headline said in the advertisement in the New York Times, signed by 13 different music trade groups and associations.

The RIAA was a signatory to the Times ad, which argued that music can be bought online legally without harm to musicians.

“Stealing music over the Internet is no different than shoplifting CDs out of a record store,” the ad said. “It’s also a very public activity — meaning that offenders can easily be identified.”

More than 2.6 billion songs, movies and other files are copied over computer networks every month, according to industry estimates. Executives believe such trading has led to a 14 percent slide in revenues since pioneering service Napster (news – web sites) opened in 1999.

The RIAA, whose roster includes the five top record labels, has shut down Napster and several similar networks but failed to stem the tide of Internet sharing. It hopes the lawsuits and advertising might deter people in their own homes.

“We hope that parents will pay attention to what their kids are doing … that corporations will pay attention to what their employees are doing,” RIAA President Cary Sherman told Reuters.

Adam Cohen, a partner in the litigation department of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, said the music industry in its battle shows “a lack of concern with alienating the consumer … It’s hard to imagine that this would really spur people to buy more records.”

Cohen, who has represented online radio and Webcasting services on copyright issues, noted the Napster case ended with a bankruptcy but left open the legal debate on targeting individuals who copy music for non-commercial purposes.

RIAA members include AOL Time Warner Inc.’s (NYSE:AOL – news) Warner Music; Vivendi Universal’s (NYSE:V – news) Universal Music Group; Sony Corp (news – web sites).’s (6758.T) Sony Music; Bertelsmann AG (news – web sites)’s (BERT.UL) BMG and EMI Group Plc (news – web sites) (EMI.L).

Bertelsmann is also the subject of lawsuits from EMI, Universal Music and music publishers for allegedly perpetuating online piracy with a previous investment in Napster.

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