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Major record companies filed a lawsuit against file-sharing Web service Aimster on Thursday, asserting the company is helping customers infringe upon the copyrights of millions of sound recordings worldwide. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New York City less than a month after Aimster sued the Recording Industry Association of America in federal court in Albany, N.Y., where the company is based. Aimster is seeking a declaration that it is not violating copyrights. The record companies’ lawsuit alleges that Aimster has designed a computer system that encourages “millions of individual anonymous users to copy and distribute infringing copyrighted works by the millions, if not billions.” It said the company was providing the same abilities to its customers as Napster, a company that enables file swapping. A federal judge in March ordered Napster to block the exchange of copyrighted songs. “Aimster is Napster all over again,” said Cary Sherman, general counsel for the recording industry organization. “Beneath the added bells and whistles lies the same service that Napster provides.” But George Carpinello, a lawyer for Aimster, said the company provides a service equivalent to a telephone company or a post office. “We don’t monitor or censor what they are saying or doing. The user decides what to send and to whom to send it,” he said. “We don’t have any interest in them sending a recording as opposed to pictures of their grandchildren.” He said the lawsuit filed Thursday was an effort to move the case from Albany to Manhattan. Sherman, the recording industry organization lawyer, said: “What Aimster demonstrates is that there are still individuals and companies who choose not to respect the rights of copyright owners. And when those situations occur, we will continue to vigorously enforce our members’ rights.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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