A lawsuit has been filed against RealNetworks for allegedly violating the privacy of online music enthusiasts.

The complaint, filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, represents four licensed RealNetworks users. The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, accuses the company of violating the US Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and states consumer protection and privacy statues.

Security consultant Richard Smith revealed last month that the RealJukebox software sent information about customers' listening habits back to RealNetworks without alerting users. Smith charged that the company's RealPlayer product also collected user information.

"This action is being filed on behalf of the millions of users of the RealJukebox software to obtain compensation and other relief for violations of state and federal law," said Jonathan Shub, a plaintiff's attorney, in a statement last week.

Another user has filed a $500 million class-action lawsuit against RealNetworks.

Thomas Frank, chief operating officer at RealNetworks, said the company's swift issuing of a patch for RealJukebox - offering a new version of RealPlayer - and changes it has made to its privacy policy demonstrates its concern with user privacy. "We believe all the litigation is completely meritless," said Frank.

RealNetworks recently posted a new version of its player, RealPlayer 7, which it says doesn't report personal data.

RealJukebox, which plays and organizes music from CDs and Web sites, has 13.5 million registered users. Users are asked to submit their names and email addresses when they first download the product.

RealNetworks has issued a patch that it said will disable the data-collection functions. It also altered the privacy statement on its Web site to reflect the practice. It insisted that the data was meant to provide statistics on the aggregated use of RealJukebox, not data on individual users.

Smith said he remains concerned about third parties creating add-on products to RealNetwork's RealServer product that could also collect data.