The music industry's new campaign to scare students away from P2P networks while at the same time minimizing their own legal costs has been getting lots of press this week.

p2plawsuits settlement procedure

Essentially the industry is sending letters to universities that these are supposed to forward to the alleged infringers. These letters announce plans for a lawsuit and then offer a pre-lawsuit settlement, complete with an e-commerce like website that makes settling such matters as easy as shopping on Ebay. The Consumerist blog features the letter in question as a PDF download.

I took a look at the settlement website today and stumbled upon a rather odd entry in the FAQ:

"If the record companies negotiated a settlement with the P2P service I used, can they still sue me?

Yes. You are still responsible for your actions and the harm that you have caused."


There have been quite a few P2P companies that have settled their lawsuits. iMesh, Bearshare and Grokster come to mind. But in all of these cases the settlement involved switching to a licensed P2P model that involves content filtering, like the one in place for users of the new iMesh service.

So why would the industry want to sue users of these supposedly legal services? Maybe because no filters are perfect. iMesh is still part of the Gnutella network, and there is a high likelyhood that the copyright cops of the music industry will sooner or later find an iMesh user sharing unlicensed MP3s that made it through the filter.

P2Plawsuits.com makes it clear that such a user won't necessarily be spared, even if he thought what he did was completely legal - after all, he was using a program that had the blessings of the music industry. From the website:

"Does it matter that I did not know my activity was illegal?

Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. But it is also important to note that the music community has for years undertaken vigorous educational efforts to inform people about the laws."


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