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Is the record industry guilty of extortion? Here’s the latest salvo from the battles over online piracy. A woman in New Jersey who was sued for illegally downloading songs has countersued the Recording Industry Association of America, the group representing the major labels; she asserts that the RIAA is using its suit to intimidate her, Sopranos style, into settling out of court. 381 out of the 531 downloaders sued thus far have chosen to settle.

While the lawyers figure out whether this does or doesn’t constitute extortion, the fact that these suits/countersuits exist is a crime in itself. The industry has a right to protect its interests, but surely the bigwigs realize that, no matter how many suits they file, the downloading will continue. The success of the emerging market for digital download services, such as iTunes, proves that there is cash to be made, legally. It’s time the industry step aside, forget about bullying milk money, and focus on creating some meaningful reasons for people not to swipe MP3s in the first place.

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