August 21, 2002 2:45 PM PDT

ISPs off the hook in swapping suit

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The Recording Industry Association of America has dropped a contentious lawsuit against major Internet service and network companies that sought their help in shutting down communications to a China-based music copying site.

The RIAA had filed a federal suit Friday against network and ISP (Internet service provider) divisions of companies including AT&T, Cable & Wireless, Advanced Network Services and WorldCom, accusing the companies of allowing people to access the Listen4ever Web site and illegally copy music.

However, the RIAA said Wednesday that it was dropping the suit because the Listen4ever site has been shut down. The site offered music from artists including Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera and The Red Hot Chili Peppers as well as some unreleased music, according to the suit.

"This particular network was a crass attempt to evade our copyright laws by setting up shop in China while offering a treasure trove of mostly American music for free," RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen said.

The RIAA, which has sued networks including Napster to the brink of extinction, could not track down the operator of Listen4ever. Instead, it took the controversial step of suing ISPs for offering access to the network.

"The fact that this file-sharing service went to such lengths to conceal its origins demonstrates again the awareness that this is an illegal activity--for both the operators and users of these unauthorized networks," Rosen said.

The RIAA, a trade group representing major music labels, has become increasingly aggressive in its efforts to stop piracy and maintain control over distribution of its music in the digital age. In addition to filing suits against Napster, Scour and Morpheus, the organization has pursued companies that allow employees to swap files and is moving closer to going after individual users.

A representative for AT&T Broadband confirmed that the suit was dropped but had no further comment. Representatives from the other companies named in the suit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

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