The recording industry, which has been suing hundreds of consumers for copyright infringement, is getting a sample of the flip side. A New Jersey woman has countersued the big record labels, charging them with extortion and violations of the federal antiracketeering act.

Michele Scimeca sued the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), charging that by suing file-swappers for copyright infringement and then offering to settle instead of pursuing the case, the RIAA is violating the anti-racketeering statues, which are normally applied to gangsters and organized crime.

"This scare tactic has caused a vast amount of settlements from individuals who feared fighting such a large institution and feel victim to these actions and felt forced to provide funds to settle these actions instead of fighting," Scimeca's attorney, Bart Lombardo, wrote in documents filed with a New Jersey federal court. "These types of scare tactics are not permissible and amount to extortion."

The RIAA has been suing ordinary consumers for hundreds of thousands of dollars, accusing them of infringing the recording companies' copyrights by sharing music files over the Internet. It filed its latest batch of suits, against 531 people, last week. A total of nearly 1,500 have been sued so far. About 380 have settled out of court, usually by paying thousands of dollars.

In San Francisco, computer user Raymond Maalouf is preparing to fight back. His daughters allegedly used Kazaa to download music.

In court documents, Maalouf's attorneys noted that downloading through Kazaa was openly discussed at Maalouf's daughter's school by teachers, and they downloaded songs used in classes. That should be a protected fair use of the music, the attorneys said.