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Recording industry site hit again

Access to the RIAA's Web site is sporadic after attacks. Weekend vandalism includes a faux announcement that the group would "offer the latest albums for download."

For the third time in five weeks, the Recording Industry Association of America has come under online attack, apparently by activists irate about the group's legal efforts to curtail music-swapping.

As of Tuesday afternoon, access to the RIAA.org site was sporadic. Over the weekend, it had been defaced to include a faux announcement that it would "offer the latest albums for download from RIAA.org" and a small collection of MP3 files.

"The RIAA wishes to apologize for the heavy-handed manner in which the popular Chinese site Listen4Ever was closed down, and would like to present the following items for free download as a token of its goodwill," the defacement said. That was a reference to a lawsuit that the RIAA filed to force U.S. network providers to block access to the Listen4ever site, which is now offline.

An RIAA spokesman said he needed more time to research what happened and could not immediately comment.

The trade association, along with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has won many critics in its quest to shut down popular file-trading networks such as Napster. The group says Net piracy has badly cut into legitimate sales and recently released a report that said CD sales for the first six months of 2002 had dropped because of online piracy.

Both groups have endorsed a bill backed by Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Howard Coble, R-N.C. It would rewrite federal law to permit nearly unchecked electronic disruptions if a copyright holder has a "reasonable basis" to believe that piracy is occurring on peer-to-peer networks.

Last month, the RIAA took legal action after a dispute with Verizon Communications over tracing an alleged peer-to-peer pirate. It asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for an order compelling Verizon to reveal the name of a customer accused of illegally trading hundreds of songs. Citing privacy concerns and potential legal liability, Verizon has refused to comply with a subpoena the RIAA sent last month.

In a legal brief filed last Friday, Verizon said what the RIAA wanted was not sufficiently privacy protective and could lead to "widespread abuse" in the court system. RIAA's reply brief is due Wednesday.

The latest RIAA.org defacement comes after a similar action last week and a denial-of-service attack that took place in late July.

This weekend's electronic vandalism, which is a federal crime, included a faked apology for being overly litigious and a statement saying: "With the legal file-sharing service Kazaa still online, the Recording Industry Association of America today announced that it intends to offer the latest albums for download from RIAA.org."