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The recording industry sued 531 more computer users Tuesday it said were illegally distributing songs over the Internet in what has become a routine reminder that college students, teenagers and others can face expensive lawsuits for swapping music online. The Recording Industry Association of America filed the latest complaints against “John Doe” defendants in lawsuits in Atlanta; Philadelphia; Orlando, Fla.; and Trenton, N.J. It said the defendants were customers of one of five Internet providers based in those cities. Philadelphia is the headquarters for Comcast Cable Communications Inc., the nation’s largest cable company. Atlanta is headquarters for Earthlink Inc., another of the nation’s biggest Internet providers. Music industry lawyers identified the defendants only by their numeric Internet protocol addresses and expected to work through the courts to learn their names and where they live. The RIAA’s president, Cary Sherman, said illegal downloads continue hurting new, legitimate Internet services for selling music. “We are sending a clear message that downloading or ‘sharing’ music from a peer-to-peer network without authorization is illegal, it can have consequences and it undermines the creative future of music itself,” Sherman said in a statement. Last month, the recording group filed lawsuits against 532 computers users who were customers of Internet providers based in Washington and New York. The latest actions represent the largest number of complaints filed at one time since the trade group launched its legal campaign last summer to cripple Internet music piracy. The recording group has said previously that after its lawyers discover the identity of each defendant, they will contact each person to negotiate a financial settlement before amending the lawsuit to formally name the defendant and, if necessary, transfer the case to the proper courthouse. Settlements in previous cases have averaged $3,000 each. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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