Music Biz Kills Amnesty Program

(Wired) LOS ANGELES — The music industry’s trade group has ended a program that offered to prevent people from being sued by recording companies if the downloaders admitted to illegally sharing music online, according to court documents. The Recording Industry Association of America launched the “Clean Slate” program in September, when it embarked on a strategy of suing individual computer users for copyright infringement.

The program required individuals to acknowledge in writing that they shared music files online and then remove the files from their computers. In exchange, the RIAA pledged not to target them in its lawsuit campaign.

While hundreds signed up, critics dismissed the program, saying the trade group could not possibly guarantee that anyone who admitted to file-sharing would not be the target of a lawsuit.

Eric Parke, a Novato, California, resident, challenged the program in court, accusing the RIAA of fraudulent business practices for promoting the program and asking the judge for an injunction against the trade group.

In papers filed Friday, attorneys for the RIAA asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that the case is now moot, because the trade group dropped the program earlier this month.

“The RIAA has concluded that the program is no longer necessary or appropriate, and has voluntarily withdrawn it,” the RIAA attorneys wrote in the court papers.

In its motion, the trade group explained that it no longer deems the program useful because it considers the public educated or aware enough now to know that they could be sued for file sharing. The RIAA added that the number of people stepping forward to participate in the program has slowed “to a trickle.”

In all, 1,108 people signed up for the program, the RIAA said. An RIAA spokesman declined to comment Monday beyond the court filing.

The trade group said it would continue to honor the terms of the program with those who participated.

Fred von Lohmann, a senior intellectual property attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the trade group can’t keep a copyright holder from suing any of the individuals who signed up for its program.

“The headlines for the amnesty program have dissipated and now it’s pretty clear that their main goal is to use the stick of litigation,” von Lohmann said. “It was sort of a sham from the beginning.”

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