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RIAA Sues the Dead
February 4, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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The RIAA's campaign against alleged music pirates has been well-criticized for being overly ruthless. In their plight to eradicate file-sharing, the RIAA has pursued children, grandmothers and the destitute. In a move that many consider to only add insult to injury, the RIAA has sued 83 year old Gertrude Walton. The only problem is, Gertrude has been dead since December of 2004.

According the Chareston Gazzet, 83 year old Gertrude Walton was sharing over 700 songs (we can only presume on the FastTrack network, although the article does not specify.) These tracks included Rap, Rock and Top-40; sharing under the pseudonym “smittenedkitten.”

Not only has the RIAA's legal tactics been criticized for its ruthlessness, but also the obvious inaccuracies that inevitably surface. While sharing information over a P2P network, there is no direct way for the RIAA to obtain your personal information. Under the guidelines of a "John Doe" lawsuit, the RIAA sues your IP address. The RIAA then goes to your ISP and matches the IP address with the date and time in question.

The accuracy of such a tactic has been debated time and time again, as individuals who claim they do not even own a computer have been sued for copyright infringement. Today's latest incident only exemplifies this situation.

Gertrude's daughter Robin Chianumba, who had been living with her mother for the last 17 years, stated that no computer existed in the house and no one ever accessed any file-sharing network.

“My mother was computer illiterate. She hated a computer,” Chianumba said. “My mother wouldn’t know how to turn on a computer.”

Similarly, the RIAA sued New Hampshire resident Renee Elderd for copyright infringement. However, the catch is that she did not commit any of the infringement - her ex-husband did. Although her ex-husband did all the downloading and used the computer, the Internet account was in her name.

While Elderd is in serious trouble, Gertrude Walton's family is off the proverbial hook.

“Our evidence gathering and our subsequent legal actions all were initiated weeks and even months ago,” said RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy. “We will now, of course, obviously dismiss this case.”

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

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