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RIAA sues Audiogalaxy

The recording and music publishing industries extended their legal pursuit of online music swapping firms Friday, suing Audiogalaxy for copyright infringement.

The Recording Industry Association of America and the National Music Publishers Association accused the Austin, Texas, firm of “willfully and intentionally” encouraging and facilitating millions of users to copy and distribute copyright work of artists, ranging from Dave Mathews and Celine Dion to Alicia Keyes and the Beatles.

The two industry groups claim that Audiogalaxy, with more than 15 million registered users, uses a system that is even more egregious than Napster, which the music industry effectively shut down in the courts last year.

Founder Michael Merhej and other AudioGalaxy officials did not immediately return calls placed to their offices late Friday afternoon.

Merhej said previously that AudioGalaxy was taking measures to prevent copyrighted music from being illegally shared, but RIAA officials complained that the measures were insufficient.

Audiogalaxy, which grew out of a music search engine at the University of Texas, not only allows users to download songs and albums, but also cover artwork and software.

The firm uses some 430 computer servers as a hub for users to trade through, providing a huge database that lists thousands of available songs, their file size and download speeds.

In their claim filed late Friday in a New York federal court, the plaintiffs said billions of copyright works may have been downloaded illegally.

The Texas firm reported more than 1.5 billion monthly hits in November, and makes money by selling online advertising and subscriptions for access to premium services.

The RIAA represents all the major recording companies. The NMPA represents music publishing firms as well as songwriters through its licensing affiliate, the Harry Fox Agency.

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