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Tess Vigeland: Can you imagine life without mp3s? Yeah, me neither. It's the format that lets us download high quality music files -- fast. Of course it's also what makes it easy to illegally trade those files without paying for them. For years the Recording Industry Association of America has been suing netizens, accusing them of illegally sharing music files. Little kids, single moms, and a whole slew of college students were threatened with enormous fines. But that era, it seems, has now met the fate of the 8-tracks, and cassettes, and, yes, CDs that came before it. Rico Gagliano reports.

Rico Gagliano: Last year, in an interview with Marketplace, CEO Mitch Bainwol defended the RIAA's litigious anti-piracy campaign.

Mitch Bainwol: It took some pretty gutsy actions, by the music industry and others, to establish that in fact intellectual property is worthy of protection.

But the RIAA now confirms it's easing up on the gutsy actions, and going with what seems like a lighter touch. Instead of lawsuits, they're getting service providers to tell file-trading customers to cease and desist. Users who don't shape up would risk losing internet access. Yahoo tech blogger Christopher Null says a new approach is long overdue.

Christopher Null: I think it's just finally the RIAA coming to its senses after many, many years of getting nowhere, and spending lots and lots of money and really having nothing in the end to show for it.

Except, of course, a lot of bad publicity. Critics called the industry's lawsuits, well, lots of things, but the word we can use on the air is "abusive." Meanwhile, Null says, movie producers had more luck getting Internet service providers to shut down movie-sharing sites.

Null: That's been a strategy that's arguably worked fairly well, and it hasn't made them out to be this kind of heavy that the RIAA looks like right now in many users' eyes.

But can it put a stop to piracy? Null says probably not. Service providers haven't always been eager to punish their customers. Of course, some analysts speculate the money the industry saves in lawsuit fees could be used to persuade ISP's to be more aggressive watchdogs.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.