Warning to Those Who Pirate Music From Artists

The battle against online downloading of music over the Internet has now become a war of words. Or at least a few well chosen ones. The Recording Industry Association of America, which claims the practice of swapping MP3 files is costing them millions in lost revenues every year, has now begun tracing song titles to send ominous notices to users of services like Kazaa and Morpheus through a pop-up window.

"It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer," it reads in part. "When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON'T STEAL MUSIC either by offering it to others to copy or downloading it on a 'file-sharing' system like this." At least 200,000 users saw that message on Tuesday.

But whether they actually got the message is another story. Negative feedback is already popping up about the pop-ups. "Way to go, RIAA. Sue and threaten the public, your customers," notes one posting on Yahoo. "I think I'll go and download." But R.I.A.A. president Cary Sherman sees it differently. "We are just letting them know it's illegal and they are not anonymous."

The initiative comes after a U.S. judge ruled on Friday that the services can't be held responsible for what is downloaded on their networks. The industry plans to appeal that ruling.

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