The Recording Industry Association of America (Riaa) is taking a more softly, softly approach to suing file swappers with its latest round of attacks on 204 suspected online music pirates.

Its previous methods were criticised, in particular by Senator Norm Coleman who questioned the industry's legal tactics, according to a report in The New York Times. Problems arose as the Riaa gave file swappers no warning that they were to be sued, and ended up starting legal action against children and pensioners who often didn't know of the suits against them until they were contacted by the media.

This time, all 204 of the file swappers the Riaa has in its sights are to be contacted by letter before any action is taken, giving them the chance to resolve things without resorting to the courts.

"Our objective is not to win lawsuits — it is to foster a business environment where legal online music services and bricks-and-mortar retail stores can florish," Riaa president Cary Sherman told The New York Times.

The benefits of this new approach are to give the industry the chance to drop cases based on mistaken identity before they reach the lawyers, and also to deal with specific cases more sympathetically, should the need arise.

While critic of the Riaa action, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, welcomes the changes it still says it's a stop short of actually halting "this wrongheaded course".

Related links:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The New York Times