Web Sharers Threatened By Lawsuits

Digital music, copyright, mp3, cd, compact disk, rights
The embattled music industry has launched an aggressive plan for its fight against Internet piracy, threatening to sue hundreds of individual computer users who illegally share music files online.

And this time, as CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports, it aims to succeed.

Though most people might see singer Beyoncé Knowles as a successful mega-star, the music industry sees Knowles, and all recording artists, as victims, and that perception is at the heart of their battle.

Music executives say the billboard stars are being robbed by Internet pirates, as the trend of downloading free music from the Web becomes more and more widespread.

A recent college grad, who wished to remain anonymous, admits to taking more than 2,000 tunes off the Net over a period of four years. The former student told Whitaker that everyone is downloading.

"Guaranteed! My entire dormitory when I was a freshman was downloading constantly," he says.

So today, the industry declared war; scouring the Internet for names, threatening to sue the most flagrant cyber pirates.

"There's no such thing as a free lunch," says Cary Sherman, President of the Recording Industry Association of America. "People can't afford to pursue a career in music if they're not going to be paid for it."

Previous attacks have failed. The industry forced Napster, the first music-swapping network to shut down, but others have popped up.

Last month, the industry sued Jesse Jordan and three other college students for running campus networks similar to Napster.

Jordan's $12,000 fine was paid by his online supporters.

The recording industry hopes this new attack will kill off digital piracy once and for all and convince fans to use new pay to play systems like Apple's iTunes.

This is a hard sell to millions who are convinced music should be free, and to those who don't see online downloading as stealing.

"Not at all, because you're just getting a few songs that you find interesting and seeing what's up," the former student told Whitaker.

And what's up is new technology on the way to making downloaders anonymous, and that much more difficult for the industry to locate and take to court.