Jewish World Review June 24, 2003 / 24 Sivan, 5763

Music swappers ignore threats | (KRT) Go ahead and sue, thousands of Internet users told the Recording Industry Association of America: We're still going to download music files.

Grokster, one of the largest services where people swap songs, said there was no change Thursday in the number of people sharing files or the number of files being traded, despite RIAA's threats Wednesday to sue people who share copyrighted music.

Wayne Rosso, president of the service, was clearly pleased by the strong support from Grokster's users Thursday, and dismissed the RIAA's pursuit of his customers.

"They're sociopaths," he said. "Somebody needs to put Prozac in their water supply. They can do whatever they want to ruin their own business."

As many as 57 million people nationwide have copied songs from the Internet. Kazaa, the largest service, is now the most-downloaded computer program in history, with more than 230 million copies distributed worldwide. About 2.5 million copies of the program were downloaded last week.

Recent studies show the majority of computer owners have music files on their hard drives, obtained from Internet services or from CDs they already own.

The RIAA said Wednesday it plans to search file-sharing services for people who post what it calls substantial numbers of copyrighted songs and will file lawsuits against several hundred people within a couple of months. It said it also was considering pursuing criminal charges.

More than a score of top-name recording artists, including Sheryl Crow, Peter Gabriel, Mary J. Blige and the Dixie Chicks, joined the industry group in denouncing downloads, arguing that people who obtain songs without paying for them are choking off new music.

But song sharers galore emerged across the Net on Thursday to say they're sick of threats from the music industry. In Web postings and e-mails, they said they want the freedom to mix and match the songs they want.

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"It will be interesting to see in a couple of years what the RIAA blames for declining sales. I, for one, will not purchase another CD till this all blows over," said Dennis Likens of St. Clair Shores, Mich.

"I've downloaded 2,500 songs, and I'm going to download more. I already own them," said Gregory, of Warren, Mich., who owns a variety of music on everything from 45s to eight-tracks he can't get on CD.

"I don't plan on stopping," said Jordan from Livonia, Mich. "It's not about getting free music to me. It's about listening to the songs I enjoy, discovering new music I haven't heard of and deciding whether or not I want to buy the CD."

Like many users of file-sharing services interviewed by phone and e-mail Thursday, Gregory and Jordan spoke on condition of anonymity. The RIAA has said in the past it got the names of people it's sued from newspaper reports.

Kelly Fitzpatrick of Ipan, Guam, expressed frustration over copyright lawsuits like the one the RIAA filed this year against Michigan Tech student Joseph Nievelt.

"I've never downloaded a song. I don't even have a fast modem or a CD-RW drive. But it'll be a cold day in hell when I ever again buy a record marketed by any RIAA member," she said.

A small but vocal minority of e-mails said the RIAA is doing the right thing.

"As a working musician, I want to thank you for reminding users to stop the file sharing," said George Wave of Traverse City, Mich. "Stealing the work of artists is just that ... stealing."

But some former supporters of the RIAA now say they have mixed feelings. Anne Garbus, owner of two Desirable Discs stores in Dearborn, Mich., wrote after the RIAA filed suit against Nievelt this spring to support the organization. After the latest statements, she had a more critical view.

"Boy, you could roll a bowling ball in my place and not hit anyone!" she wrote. "My markup has been the same for six years, so I'm not making any more money. The artist isn't; they make their cash with merchandise and touring. So, let's see, who's left? The record companies. So until they take a cut in pay - top management, that is - not a da-n thing is going to change."

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© 2003, Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services