If you've shared your Avril Lavigne MP3s online lately, you might need a lawyer. The Recording Industry Association of America said Monday that it has finally filed long-threatened copyright infringement lawsuits against hundreds of users of file-sharing networks such as Kazaa. The RIAA says it singled out these users because they offered large amounts of music -- an average of more than 1,000 copyrighted songs each -- for download from their hard drives. Those who've merely downloaded songs from others have not yet been targets.
The RIAA says it may ultimately file thousands of such lawsuits, which could hold the defendants responsible for between $75 and $150,000 per song. The industry group hopes that fear of legal action will convince music fans to stop using the peer-to-peer networks, which the industry blames for declining CD sales.
To that end, they're also offering peer-to-peer users ''amnesty,'' promising not to sue those who submit a signed and notarized affidavit promising not to share or download any more MP3s, and swearing that they've deleted all files they've already downloaded. Writing ''I will not share'' on the chalkboard a hundred times is apparently not an option.