RIAA will stop suing fans. A nation wonders what took them so long.

Good news for a snowbound morning: The RIAA has announced that it will not file any more lawsuits against alleged music pirates.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The decision represents an abrupt shift of strategy for the industry, which has opened legal proceedings against about 35,000 people since 2003. Critics say the legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.

Instead, the Recording Industry Association of America said it plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider’s customers making music available online for others to take.

The RIAA plans to finish pursuing all currently active lawsuits – so Jammie Thomas isn’t safe, yet – but when the last one is over we will finally be able to close the book on one of the most absurd chapters in American copyright history.

I have to say, while the end of these lawsuits is wonderful news, especially for my employer and other universities and colleges across the country, a part of me is a little sad. The story of the crazily misguided RIAA suing its customers (and dead people) has become one of the mainstays of my copyright lectures. With the RIAA finally approaching sanity, I lose one of my favorite villains.

Hat tip to Fred Benenson via Twitter.

Update 12/21/08, 8:14 am EST: It turns out that the WSJ article was misleading about the RIAA’s phasing out of lawsuits. It claims the organization stopped filing lawsuits “early this fall”, but Ray Beckerman has uncovered suits filed as recently as last Monday. It’s unclear whether the WSJ was misleading on purpose, or simply misled by RIAA spokespeople. So nevermind, for now. Our villain remains villainous.