Following last week’s news that the RIAA were toasting a court case that saw them successfully suing an individual a $222,000 fine for the illegal downloading of just 24 songs, today a much smaller music company has done 6,999 cases better.

Antiquiet reports that American metal label Century Media have filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey court implicating 7,000 individuals who illegally shared albums by heavy rock acts Lacuna Coil and Iced Earth online via download client BitTorrent.

There are in fact two joint suits collectively targeting 3,136 defendants who shared Dark Adrenaline, Lacuna Coil’s latest record, while four civil complaints are being served up to 4,327 fans who illegally shared a pirated copy of Iced Earth’s 2011 album, Dystopia.

In both cases, the 7,000+ metal fans have been accused of participating in a collective “swarm” of pirating via BitTorrent and its peer-to-peer downloading structure. Rather than filing complaints against individuals, the lawyers and judges have debated that the large numbers of participants could arguably be tried as a mass collective.

It’s a new legal approach that’s developed across two years, with an estimated quarter of a million BitTorrent users being sued in Federal Courts across America for copyright violation since 2010. Some tricky legal wording means that essentially it can implicate the illegal metal music sharers as a group.

One of the lawyers helping Century Media with their lawsuit is Jay R. McDaniel, who says that “we believe the swarm – that is the network of users – is capable of being sued as an entity, and the entity has a physical presence in New Jersey in the form of the various equipment that its New Jersey resident users are using to further the operations of the swarm.”

McDaniel and his team has also filed for full disclosure of the swarm (and its individuals’) identities, as well as a restraining order to prevent them from continuing to use BitTorrent or similar serves to copy or distribute works that are under copyright protection – such as the albums by Lacuna Coil and Iced Earth.

As with several cases we’ve seen in the last twelve months, it’s another legal case that doesn’t attempt to get to the root of the music piracy problem, but to instead go after individuals – or a ‘swarm’ of them in this case – to squeeze as much money out of the guilty as possible.

Money that will inevitably go to the labels, and not the musicians who’s work is being squabble over, with most funds generated from successful lawsuits generally going to fund more legal campaigns against individuals and to pay for anti-piracy campaigning.

Interestingly, neither Lacuna Coil nor Iced Earth have commented on their record label’s witch-hunt against their fans – there’s still a chance they could impeach their own cease-and-desist against Century Media; much like All Shall Perish attempted to against it’s own label earlier this year when they started baying for financial blood.

But as was the case in the latter, Lacuna Coil and Iced Earth’s hands may already be tied down, but it’s a mad state of affairs when bands have to fight against the very labels that are supposed to be supporting them from putting their fans in the financial crossfire.

Century Media’s lawsuit also follows reports that unearth the surprisingly low impact online file-sharing supposedly has in comparison to offline music sharing and swapping, bringing into question the morality of the record labels and their representatives as they continue to drag out figurehead cases such as these.

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