Major music companies are preparing to mount a broad new attack on unauthorized online song-swapping. The campaign would include suits against individuals who are offering the largest troves of songs on peer-to-peer services. THE BIG recording companies, working through their trade association, the Recording Industry Association of America, are moving toward filing copyright lawsuits that would target the highest volume song providers within the services, which allow people to grab songs without paying artists or labels, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The suits would be part of a broader effort, including a public campaign that may feature prominent artists urging music fans to respect copyright rules. The new legal tack would be a departure from the entertainment industry?s strategy so far. Companies have been reluctant to take legal action against individual Internet users, in part because they have feared the possible backlash that could result from big corporate interests dragging individuals into court. Suits against individual Internet users ? particularly if the defendants aren?t seeking to create profitable operations based on their online music activities ? could cause a backlash from some of the record industry?s own fans and biggest customers. But many music executives, watching revenue sag as home compact-disc copying has soared, feel that they have little choice if they are to save their business. World-wide music sales dropped 5% last year, while global sales of compact-disc albums declined for the first time since CDs were launched in 1983. So far this year, U.S. music sales are down steeply from a sluggish 2001. Filing suits against individual users is complicated. Entertainment companies frequently hire services that specialize in tracking copyrighted material online. But to get the name of an individual user, they have to send a subpoena to that person?s Internet-service provider. Even for the ISP, linking the Internet address to a name can be complex. Moreover, it?s hard to verify which person was logged on to an Internet connection at a given time. If the target of a suit turned out to be under 18, he or she would likely be liable. Under certain circumstances, the parents could also be liable. That is about half of this article. I share this not for the news value, but rather for the debate of whether or not it is right, wrong or even legal for record companies to attempt to sue individual users. What kind of precedent would it set if a company could sue two people trading songs that they legally own with each other, or people who download music they legally own already. What kind of precedent will it be setting if the RIAA can work with ISPs to find out your downloading information and thereby sue you based on what they find (or what they think they find). And what of the practical points of it, such as the risk of the record companies truly alienating their customers away and thereby severely damaging themselves in a way they have not done before. Just some points for debate . Title Change On Request.