The downloaders in the USA have finally found someone brave enough to fight the RIAA and their everlasting crusade against illegal downloaders.
Patricia Santangelo, 42, is a mother of five children with the youngest being 6 and the oldest 19 years old. She was sued early this year by several record companies in White Plains. The reason they sued her is because her internet account and her computer were used to trade copyrighted songs.
Record companies have filed about 13,300 similar federal lawsuits against Internet users across the country since September 2003. Nearly 3,000 of those lawsuits have been settled. The offending music traders have agreed to pay an average of $4,000 to $5,000 and promised not to illegally download copyrighted songs anymore.
None of the cases has gone to trial.
This last sentence might finally change, because according to Patricia, she hasn't done anything wrong. She would rather pay the lawyer's fees than to give into intimidation.
She said she is still nervous about the whole thing, but the threatening just aggravated her. She has never used Kazaa, the program that was installed on her computer. She never knew it was there before she was sued. One of the friends of her children apparently downloaded the program and installed it, as the account name in the lawsuit belonged to that friend but not to her or any of her children.
If this particular woman is willing to go to trial, that's something new," said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group that opposes the lawsuits. "The threat is so great that most people don't even risk it."
The record companies say the law is clear and on their side: If you download copyrighted songs on the Internet without compensating the songs' owners, you're stealing.
The law indeed says that downloading copyrighted songs on the internet is illegal within the United States. What it doesn't state is that the owner of the internet account or that computer is responsible. The person downloading is responsible for it. You could compare it to your car getting stolen, being used in a bank robbery. As the police are unable to find the people that robbed the bank, they go after the owner of the car. After all it was her car that was used in the robbery.
"Many of these lawsuits have been brought against people who are simply the names on the Internet account," Rogers said. He said that's not good enough to sustain a lawsuit. The companies have sued unsuspecting mothers, fathers, grandparents — people who have only grudgingly made the switch from vinyl albums to compact discs.
That indicates that there might be hope that she will be able to win a lawsuit. She was advised by McMahon, a judge who got a glimpse of the issue at a conference back in May, to get a lawyer. He also stated: "I would love to see a mom fighting one of these".
And so would a lot of internet users within the United States.
The illegal downloading argument aside, what the RIAA is doing to people is sick.
I'll try to sum it up in a few paragraphs without ranting.
RIAA goons scan P2P file apps for shared material. Addresses are gathered and ISPs are served with copyright violation notices. ISPs hand over names of users and the RIAA sicks their lawyers on them. Accused users are given a choice - Settle out of court for a small sum and agree to put the matter behind them, or spend the next 20 years being dragged through court and bankrupted into oblivion. As the user is almost always a broke college kid, they really have no choice in the matter.
The funny thing is, the RIAA does not confirm downloads. They simply gather filename lists. This is why a case has never gone to court. No court will convict a man because of a bunch of names on a hard disk. In fact, I keep a few files laying around full of text for just such an occasion. Imagine the look on a judge's face when he opens Brittney Spears' latest hit only to find that it's a text file that says 'RIAA can suck my nuts' to the tune of 5 megs. The point is, there are way too many technicalities you can get out of it with, because digital technology is easy to tamper with. Their lawyers know this, which is why every case which has refused to settle has been dropped. They won't risk setting precedent.
Instead, they resort to legal extortion. And I hope this woman takes them to the cleaners.
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