Last Friday, a federal appeals court dealt a blow to the recording industry's fight against online piracy. Apparently, the subpoenas the Recording Industry Association of America has been serving to Internet service providers are illegal. The decision caps a wacky year for the battle over file-sharing, and there's no indication that it's going to let up at all for 2004. The RIAA is gearing up for the battle of its life, and file sharers are entrenched. Here's a short vocab list to help you follow the battle in the next year.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) Networks: The RIAA's pet peeve, and a bit of an enigma for lawmakers. P2P networks allow file sharing between networked computers without a central server. Napster was shut down because it had central servers where it stored copyrighted music files that users could download. P2P networks, such as Kazaa, only connect users, allowing them to trade files on their hard drives. Kazaa doesn't actually provide any copyrighted material and, consequently, can't be touched by the lawman.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act: The act, passed in 1998, that was meant to update copyright laws for the digital age. Critics derided the act as unconstitutional because it infringes on file sharers' First Amendment rights. The act has been interpreted by the RIAA to mean that the group can take any measure necessary to fight digital copyright infringement. Friday's decision was a reinterpretation and a slap in the face for the industry.

Internet Service Providers: Big winners in last week's federal appeals-court decision. Since the RIAA began suing music downloaders in September, it has been serving ISPs with subpoenas left and right, demanding the ISPs hand over names of clients the association wished to sue for thousands of dollars. Now, a judge's signature is needed to get that information.

RIAA's Anti-Piracy Unit: Fighting for the rights of artists (and CEOs) to make money off of original music, the Unit has succeeded more in giving the entire industry black eye after black eye. With an amazing thuglike mentality, the RIAA has been suing grandparents and 12-year-old girls.

Bradley Buckles: Former director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and, as of Jan. 3, head of the RIAA's Anti-Piracy Unit. That's right: Buckles, the man responsible for keeping guns and drugs off the street, is now responsible for keeping 50 Cent and Ween off your hard drive.

Sued for Copyright Infringement: What all of you peer-to-peer file sharers will be if a higher court reverses Friday's decision--which could happen.

Leeching: How you will protect yourself. Find a peer-to-peer network that allows you to turn your file sharing off. Turning it off denies other users access to your hard drive, but allows you to continue downloading files. Leeching isn't good etiquette, but it's the only way to keep the RIAA from seeing all your illegal Enya tracks.

Buy: What you should do with CDs by artists you enjoy and respect. It's also what you should do with CDs by local artists. And it's what you should do at locally owned independent record stores, as those businesses have been suffering from sluggish sales and getting screwed by the major labels all year.