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From: Ruben Safir
Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Copyright Infringement on the Nets - Sue a 7 year old girl TODAY
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Online piracy facing the music S.C. computer owners irked as 176
lawsuits target songs downloaded as far back as 5 years ago By JASON
* USC a top pirate among colleges * Whatâ€™s legal? Whatâ€™s not?
* How the RIAA investigates * Going after downloaders
First came the phone calls.
Then the letters.
In each, Anita Minervino learned that if she didnâ€™t settle soon,
she could be taken for all she was worth.
â€œSurely, Iâ€™m being scammed,â€ Minervino recalls thinking.
But when two men in a pickup delivered a lawsuit to her North Myrtle
Beach home on behalf of record companies Arista, Sony BMG and Warner
Bros., Minervino hired a lawyer.
The lawsuit alleged copyright violations and detailed songs by artists
such as Green Day and TLC that her then-12-year-old daughter, Rebecca,
had downloaded more than five years ago.
Like most defendants in these lawsuits â€” coordinated by the Recording
Industry Association of America â€” Minervino didnâ€™t put up a fight.
Years after Napster kick-started a digital music bonanza, South Carolina
residents and universities increasingly are finding themselves the
targets of lawsuits and demands from the music industry. Six were filed
just last week.
Four months after being sued, Minervino paid the record companies $4,500
for the downloaded songs â€” money that will help pay for more piracy
lawsuits and investigations by the recording industry.
Thousands of dollars are being paid to the Recording Industry Association
of America as the lobbying group attempts to reduce illegal music sharing.
More than 18,000 lawsuits have been filed nationally in the last three
Piracy costs the music industry millions of dollars a year, according
to the association, which represents music companies that make and
distribute 90 percent of American music.
In South Carolina, the music industry has filed 176 lawsuits since
2003. The RIAA also has sent more than 1,700 notices of alleged copyright
violations to universities â€” 1,290 to the University of South Carolina
Leading the crackdown at USC is Ginger DeMint, the daughter of
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and the RIAAâ€™s director of government
and industry relations.
DeMint also lobbies the U.S. House of Representatives, where her father
represented a Greenville-centered district for six years before being
elected to the Senate in 2004.
Ginger DeMint declined to be interviewed for this story.
USC has hired a full-time employee to receive the recording industry
associationâ€™s copyright complaints and â€” following discussions with
Ginger DeMint â€” is considering paying for a legal music-sharing service
that its students can use.
As legal file-sharing and purchasing programs like iTunes and Ruckus
become more popular, many music lovers are caught off-guard by the
aggressive lawsuits and demands for settlement, which come with an option
to pay by phone.
South Carolinians are indignant â€” confused that theyâ€™re being sued
for alleged downloads from years ago that they themselves might not
Theyâ€™re also exasperated with their limited legal options. Fighting
a lawsuit can become much more expensive than just paying to make it
â€œThere are few things in my life that have (ticked) me off more than
this,â€ said Peter Forbes of Greenville, who was sued for a handful of
songs in his 15-year-old daughterâ€™s 600-song digital music collection.
â€œI knew she was doing it. I just didnâ€™t think about it.â€
Forbes settled for $3,750 â€” a typical amount, according to lawyers
representing people sued by the music industry.
â€œIt was a shakedown â€” big time,â€ Forbes said.
SENDING A MESSAGE
The Recording Industry Association doesnâ€™t expect to eliminate music
piracy â€” just curb it, spokeswoman Jenni Engebretsen said.
Lawsuits tend to be filed against more egregious copyright abusers,
The lawsuits help recoup losses from piracy and send a message that
there are consequences. That message has spooked â€œcasual would-be
illegal downloaders,â€ according to the recording industry association.
As music piracy has escalated, Engebretsen said, the music industry has
experienced a 33 percent decline in music shipments since 1999.
At the same time, legal online music sales have grown.
In the first half of 2006, more than 286 million songs were downloaded
legally â€” a 71 percent increase from a year before.
During that same period, 114 million ring tones and other cell
phone-related tunes were downloaded.
Still, the recording industry maintains, piracy outweighs music purchases
online. It does acknowledge that such comparisons are difficult to
measure, given the surreptitious nature of illegal downloads.
A 12-year-old downloading a song without paying for it is no different
from her walking into a store and stealing.
â€œAre they OK with their sons and daughters shoplifting from the local
record store?â€ Engebretsen said. â€œTheyâ€™re both theft of music â€”
thereâ€™s no difference.â€
Minervino, a single mother, disagrees.
She canâ€™t understand how a young girl clicking on a mouse can be
accused of such serious copyright infringement.
â€œShe wasnâ€™t selling burned CDs on the streets of New York,â€
Forbes had the same reaction concerning his daughter.
â€œThere was no criminal intent here,â€ Forbes said. â€œWeâ€™re talking
about a 15-year-old girl.â€
Under federal copyright law, intent is irrelevant â€” though it can come
into play when determining how much someone who downloads illegally must
pay in damages.
The law also sets a three-year statute of limitations on claims â€” from
the time a copyright holder knew or should have known about a violation,
said Greenville lawyer Douglas Kim.
That creates a gray area, Kim said, because a song can sit on someoneâ€™s
computer for years before a record company discovers it, and that could
be when the clock starts on the statute of limitations.
If violations can be proved, damages can be collected to the tune of
$750 to $150,000 per infringement â€” or in this case, per song. The
recording industry association tells defendants they can be sued for
hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Given that, the association maintains, settling for a few thousand
dollars is a bargain.
Defendants feel otherwise â€” annoyed at having computer clicks dragged
up years later, being threatened for hundreds of thousands of dollars
and with legal tactics that are deemed heavy-handed.
When defendants receive letters or lawsuits, they also are sent a
printout or â€œscreenshotâ€ of songs offered by their computer through
a file-sharing program.
Engebretsen declined to discuss how many investigators the RIAA employs
or other specifics about their methods.
But because the investigators are limited to only finding an Internet
account the music is shared from, the target of the lawsuit is often
not the perpetrator but the subscriber to Internet services, according
to defendants and lawyers.
Often that means a parent or roommate of someone downloading.
Record companies sued Elizabeth Hicks of Columbia in June 2005.
They dismissed the case in March, with an option to resume the lawsuit,
after Hicks claimed it was a roommate who downloaded songs, said Hicksâ€™
lawyer, Tucker Player.
It was a challenge to convince the record labels that Hicks was not
responsible, Player said.
â€œYou know what you did was wrong, and you have to pay this money,â€
said Player, characterizing the industryâ€™s attitude. â€œThere was
Those who receive notice of an impending lawsuit from the recording
industry are stuck in a Catch-22, defense lawyers say.
Should a defendant challenge the lawsuit, he must hire a lawyer, risk
being ordered to pay the plaintiffâ€™s legal fees and often wind up
paying more than he would if he had settled.
Thatâ€™s by design, said John Harleston, a Charleston lawyer who
represented Minervino. Settlement offers are large enough to hurt,
â€œbut not large enough to justify hiring a defense.â€
â€œFrom a standpoint of strategy, it has a pretty good effect,â€ he said,
but â€œthat doesnâ€™t come off as fair.â€
At least 73 of the 176 lawsuits in South Carolina have been settled.
Charleston lawyer Jason Luck is fighting one lawsuit though, on behalf
of his client Sandra DeMaria.
In a response to the lawsuit against her, DeMaria has claimed that:
â€¢ Investigative tactics and use of subpoenas to determine downloadersâ€™
identities is unlawful and immoral.
â€¢ Damages of at least $750 per song are too high, given the going
price of $1 per song on legal music download services.
â€¢ Recording companies have conspired to demand money from innocent
Luck declined to comment.
â€˜IT IRKED MEâ€™
The Recording Industry Association will continue to sue as long as piracy
remains a significant problem, Engebretsen said.
But the lawsuits leave some wondering what the point of going after
individual users is.
Spartanburg attorney Michael Wilkes settled a case after he was sued
because his children allegedly downloaded songs illegally.
â€œItâ€™s more to make a statement,â€ said Columbia lawyer Biff Sowell,
who represented Wilkes in the lawsuit.
Others wonder where the money goes.
Some say it feeds greedy lawyers. Some say it goes to rich musicians.
â€œMadonna doesnâ€™t need my money,â€ Minervino said.
Engebretsen said the lawsuits help the industry recoup losses and pay to
go after those who download illegally. She said piracy hurts an array of
workers in the music industry, including sound technicians and CD makers.
â€œThis is about far more than the artists who sit on the top of Billboard
charts,â€ Engebretsen said. â€œThey all feel the pain of piracy.â€
The lawsuits also spur discussions â€” among neighbors, colleagues
â€œOne of the most positive things is parents will have these
conversations,â€ Engebretsen said.
For Minervino, a publisher of hotel directories, itâ€™s a conversation
she could have done without.
The lawsuit taxed her finances and caused a rift between Minervino and
her daughter, she said.
â€œI couldnâ€™t hate her for it, but it made me so angry; every time I
wrote that check, it irked me.â€
It would have been understandable if Rebecca had broken a window or got
in a fender-bender.
â€œThose things you expected,â€ she said. â€œBut lawsuits out of the
blue for something they did in the privacy of their own home that didnâ€™t
hurt anybody ... you donâ€™t expect this.â€
Reach Ryan at (803) 771-8595. -- http://www.mrbrklyn.com - Interesting
Stuff http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town that Brooklyn, like
Atlantis, reaches mythological proportions in the mind of the world -
RI Safir 1998
http://fairuse.nylxs.com DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS -
RI Safir 2002
"Yeah - I write Free Software...so SUE ME"
"The tremendous problem we face is that we are becoming sharecroppers
to our own cultural heritage -- we need the ability to participate in
our own society."
"> I'm an engineer. I choose the best tool for the job, politics be
damned.< You must be a stupid engineer then, because politcs and
technology have been attacted at the hip since the 1st dynasty in
Ancient Egypt. I guess you missed that one."