Downloads via the Web
The lawsuits were filed against individuals who possess large catalogs -- hundreds and hundreds of files -- of illegally downloaded music. The digital files are shared via the Web through popular programs like Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus.
The major record labels in June began eyeing heavy users of file-sharing programs. The RIAA issued subpoenas to Internet service providers to get the name and contact information for those users. Among the labels suing are AOL Time Warner's Warner Music, Bertelsmann AG's BMG Music, EMI Group and Sony Corp.'s Sony Music Entertainment.
The major record labels have attempted to back online music subscription services with mixed results. There are also proposals for creating a fee-driven system with the file-sharing networks whereby users pay for a certain number of downloads.
Napster, the most infamous illegal file-sharing service, was shutdown in 2001 and its assets were sold to Pressplay, an online music service backed by record labels. Pressplay was merged into Roxio in recent months; Roxio is gearing up to relaunch Napster as a legal, for-pay music service.