The music industry, criticized for its recent wave of lawsuits aimed at stopping song swapping on the Internet, agreed yesterday to contact future defendants before they are sued and give them a chance to pay a cash settlement or argue that they have been mistakenly accused of copyright infringement.

The shift, announced at a Senate hearing by Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America, was in response to critics who accused the music industry of casting too wide a legal net over alleged song pirates, ensnaring 12-year-olds and grandfathers alike.

Read more: [URL=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25435-2003Sep30.html]Washington Post[/URL].