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RIAA Announces New Round of Lawsuits
December 15, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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It appears the RIAA's efforts to thwart file-sharing has accelerated, as the trade organization announced a new round of lawsuits today. Although not a dramatic acceleration, it has only been a little over two weeks since last round (November 30th.) Typically, such lawsuit announcements span two months or more.

One key reason for spacing the announcements tighter is due to the upcoming holiday season. With the shopping season in full gear, the RIAA is looking to put a damper on piracy while encouraging people back into the record stores.

Today's announcement cites 751 new "John Doe" defendants, bringing the total from June 2003 to 16,087. The RIAA lawsuits are considered "John Doe" lawsuits because the alleged pirate's IP address is sued, not the individual. Simply extracting an IP address will not yield an individual’s personal information. Once the IP address is sued and evidence is presented, the RIAA can then obtain the name of the accused.

In addition, the RIAA announced 105 named defendants (bringing today's total number of actions to 856.) When an individual does not respond to the initial complaint, the matter is escalated. Typically the individual is offered the opportunity to settle for 3 or 4 thousand dollars. If they either refuses the offer or simply ignore the RIAA, the individual is then sued for the face value of the copyright infringement. Depending on the situation, fines can run as high as $150,000 per song.

So far, ignoring or challenging the RIAA has not faired well. In the first case of its kind, 29-year-old Cecilia Gonzalez refused the RIAA's initial settlement of approximately $3,500 and took the matter to court. Ms. Gonzales lost the initial case and was ordered to pay $25,500 in damages. Claiming she was entitled to download the 30 songs based on the fair use doctrine, the matter was brought to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Unfortunately for Ms. Gonzales, the appellate court did not agree with her. Interestingly, the Judges held her liable for not only distributing, but downloading the songs as well. The matter could have been over and done with in a matter of months if she obtained a cash advance or bank loan. Instead, the 7th Circuit Court upheld the $25,500 fine that will likely haunt her for the next decade. Poor legal advice has financially ruined Ms. Gonzales and set a unfavorable precedent for those with more legitimate cases.

In any case, many file-sharers take comfort that such cases are limited to Kazaa users who are simply oblivious to the dangers associated with using such a P2P client.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Individual Lawsuits
Entertainment Industry :: RIAA

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