The Recording Industry of Amercia has not given up hope that lawsuits will deter people from illegally downloading music on P2P networks. The RIAA has announced 754 lawsuits against both named and unnamed defendants. The RIAA is making their usual claim that the defendants are infringing on the rights of their members. This year we have already seen the proliferation of lawsuits with cases in Europe and the MPAA launching some lawsuits of its own. The question is what impact are the lawsuits having on the illegal downloading of music? Is the continuation of lawsuits by the RIAA a sign of futility or do they actually believe the lawsuits are an effective deterrent?
As of today the RIAA has sued 7706 people, the majority of whom are users of P2P networks who make huge libraries of music available for download. One way of analyzing the effect of lawsuits is to measure the growth or decline of illegal P2P use. This is difficult to determine since there are no real individual statistics for illegal use. The only real way to measure P2P use is in the general growth of its use. According to Reuters there were 7.5 million users of P2P networks in November of this year. It was only 4.4 million users in November of 2003. That is a 70.5 percent growth in just one year despite the lawsuits and threats of the RIAA. Whether or not the RIAA lawsuits are deterring illegal use is uncertain, but it is clear that it is not having any effect on the overall popularity of P2P networks. The RIAA must have some confidence that the lawsuits are deterring illegal downloads of music, or they probably would have changed their method of attack. They could stop suing just the owners of large music libraries and start suing users who make small libraries available or even individual downloaders. This would probably result in tens of thousands of lawsuits. It is apparent that at this point the RIAA still fears that such a move would result in a backlash rather than be an effective deterrent. However, if the proliferation of P2P networks continues it is likely the illegal downloading will as well. This could eventually force the RIAA to get more aggressive in their lawsuits, or risk the continuing decline of CD sales.