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Group plans holiday spoiler for RIAA, studios

A musicians' activist group is asking for donations to send stockings filled with coal to the RIAA and MPAA.

As the holiday season approaches, some opponents of the movie and music industries' legal efforts are planning to celebrate in a Grinch-like fashion.

Downhill Battle, a file-sharing activist group from Worcester, Mass., has launched an Internet campaign to send lumps of coal to the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. The group said it will send a brick of unsightly coal for every $100 that people donate to digital rights defense groups Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and IPac.

"It's a cute Christmas symbol for someone who's been bad all year," said Nicholas Reville, co-director of Downhill Battle. "I think it's appropriate for all types of things that the RIAA and the MPAA are doing."

A representative for the RIAA declined to comment on the campaign. A representative for the MPAA was not immediately available for comment.

Reville's campaign is a reaction to the raft of lawsuits that the industry groups have filed against suspected file swappers. Since last summer, the RIAA has sued more than 7,700 individuals, many of whom have settled the suits for thousands of dollars each. Hollywood has followed suit by targeting its own lawsuits against technologies and Web sites that promote unauthorized copying of its movies.

Just last week, the MPAA filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against BitTorrent and eDonkey, two peer-to-peer technologies that allow speedy downloads of large digital files such as movies, video games and software.

The issue of peer-to-peer technologies has garnered considerable attention among federal regulators and courts. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court said it will hear arguments on whether a file-swapping company can be held liable for the exchange of copyrighted works on its network. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission held a two-day workshop discussing the effect of file-swapping on consumers and businesses.

Downhill Battle said the RIAA's and MPAA's legal maneuvers are harmful to consumers' fair use rights in the digital age. Reville said his group will wait until the end of the month to get a final tally of donations from the EFF, Public Knowledge and IPac and then ship the coal to the RIAA and MPAA. Whether or not the group manages to pull it off remains to be seen.

"I don't know how we're going do it, but we're going to send a big stocking of coal to each organization," Reville said.