Since the fall of the original Internet music pirate Napster, record companies have been tightening their grip on who’s swapping their performers’ tunes through person-to-person file sharing programs.

The Recording Industry Association of American Tuesday used the chat feature included in the popular file-sharing program KaZaA to tell song-sharers, “When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON’T STEAL THE MUSIC.”

Madison State Street music businesses and performer agreed with record companies position that music file sharing has hurt album sales.

Independent singer and songwriter Pat McCurdy said that although he has seen a decline in his record sales, his fan base has increased.

“DJs can download my music off the Internet and play it all over the country,” McCurdy said. “People came back from spring break and said they heard my music in Texas and Florida. [File sharing is] a blessing and a curse.”

McCurdy, who produces his CDs independent of a music label, said he has tried to make the CD inserts more attractive and include lyrics and comments not available on the Internet to attract more buyers.

Sugar Shack employee Laura Ziegler said that although the Internet can be a good source of music, some people still prefer the original copies.

“Business has been slow, but we still get people looking for collectables and originals that the Internet doesn’t offer,” Ziegler said. “When people download music, they can’t always be sure of what they’re going to get.”

A UW junior, who asked to remain anonymous because of possible prosecution for downloading copyrighted songs, said she has had problems with downloading music in the past.

“I have downloaded songs before where all that plays is the chorus,” the student said. “I also just had to have the hard drive in my new computer replaced. It could have been from downloading music files with viruses.”

Downloading corrupt files may be a result of a tactic called “spoofing” where record labels share files that are mislabeled or empty. The RIAA began “spoofing” file-sharing servers last summer as part of their defense against music files sharers.

B-Side records employee Steve Manly, said although their older clientele have remained loyal, there has been a decline in their college-aged customers.

“It’s hard to gauge whether or not it’s had much of an impact on us,” Manly said. “Since the ’90s it’s been kind of a progressive decline.”

With the Recording Industry Association of America’s recent attempts to sue four college students for music sharing on three university campuses, UW students have been downloading their new favorite singles with increased trepidation.

The RIAA is suing the students for $150,000 per copyright infringement, which could inevitably mean millions of dollars if every file shared is considered.

Besides prosecuting music file sharers, the RIAA announced yesterday that they intend to send instant message warnings to 200,000 KaZaA and Grokster users.