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RIAA Threatens 15-Year-Old 1016

MunchMunch writes "It looks like the RIAA is still going after teenagers--this time, 15-year old Megan Dickinson was caught sharing 1,100 files. At the maximum statutory damages for copyright infringement, this makes Megan's liability at least $825,000, at most a mere $165,000,000. Naturally, the RIAA benevolently offered a $3,500 settlement to avoid these moderate, legally sanctioned damages. As we can hardly forget, the RIAA has already used this technique to settle with a 12 year old. Megan's unsurprising take: 'Yeah, it seems ridiculous.'"
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RIAA Threatens 15-Year-Old

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  • End of an era...? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danielrm26 ( 567852 ) * on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:04AM (#7525682) Homepage
    Between this type of scare tactic and the saturation of the P2P networks with garbage files, I think they days of the current generation apps and networks could be numbered. The average file-sharing home user scares fairly easily. I'm not saying these networks will dissapear, but they will cease to be the giant beasts that they are today. I think IRC and new networks like Waste will continue to reign/rise up in the place of the Napster paradigm.
    • I really love waste, but I doubt that large scale sharing over it will ever acutaly happen. While its "Web of Trust" architecture and encryption makes it perfect at trumping the RIAA, its problems with scalibility and lack of speed will interfere with it. If only someone would step up and start updating it it would be an instant hit. Poor justin Frankel, having his company stolen by all too greedy AOL execs.
    • You know what? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bonch ( 38532 )
      I don't get people around here.

      The girl was illegally sharing copyrighted materials. She was one of many who have been contacted.

      Slashdot, in a typical tactic of propoganda latches onto one example and drives it home. A 12 year old! A 15 year old!

      Meanwhile, no matter how you shake it, they're still doing the legal thing--protecting their copyrighted works! Even Jamie of Slashdot knows what that is about--threatening the daily Slashdot summary site because they are "illegal."
      • Re:You know what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by originalTMAN ( 694813 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:50AM (#7526039)
        This shouldn't have been modded down. Though I'm sure no one or very few who read this site agrees with the tactics or business practices (I find it disgusting) of the RIAA, they are in the right by the simple fact that She has no right to distribute the works they publish. None. Whether distribution of there copyrighted material actually harms them is up for debate, but the legal fact of the matter is that they may pursue copyright infringers. It is not her content to distribute.
        • the legal fact of the matter is that they may pursue copyright infringers. It is not her content to distribute

          The problem is, folks like the parent like to whine "they mod me down without responding", but really, EVERY thread on the **AA has 500 responses to his/her initial statements. Most posts like the parent get modded down because they insist on whining. "You're all a bunch of thieves!" "See, this is Slashdot hypocrasy!!!" "What if someone stole YOUR code/violated the GPL!".

          See, what you and the par
          • "And no, it's not some black and white issue of "she shared music, therefore she must be guilty because the law says so". For one thing, she's a minor."

            Not sure where you're going here... do you think minors are, or should be, exempt from copyright law?

            "For another, there is the concept of evidence, due process, etc, which seems to be entirely missing from the RIAA's current tactics. Oh wait, that would assume they're a law enforcement agency, which they most certainly aren't, even if they act like

            • by Trepalium ( 109107 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @04:11AM (#7526771)
              Uhm, right. Just talk to Sarah Ward [], who was accused of sharing 2,000 songs on KaZaA with a maximum penalty of $300,000,000. Oh, except there's a few problems. For one, she's a Macintosh user (Kazaa only runs on windows), and a 66 year old sculptor. Not willing to fully back down, attorneys for the RIAA members reserved the right to harass the woman in future.

              Or there's Ross Plank [] who was accused of being a big trader of latin music. Except, he doesn't speak spanish, and doesn't particularily like latin music anyway.

              The problem with all of this is, the RIAA is bringing civil lawsuits against these people, which means you can either hire a lawyer, which will cost you more than the settlement, or you can just pay the settlement. And guess what! You're not even "innocent until proven guilty" in a civil trial. All the RIAA needs to prove is "more likely than not".

              We have other names for this kind of behaviour like extortion. Do you think most people can afford skip work to appear in court for four or more months, and pay a lawyer to defend them? It's easy to get people to settle when the cost of fighting it would break them. It's truely a sad system, when accepting a guilty verdict is cheaper than fighting for your innocence.

              • What you are missing is in the US, anyone has the right to sue anyone else. Yes, the RIAA can sue these people and they will have to go to court and defend themsleves. If they are innocent, they will have their day in court and the case will be thrown out. They can also sue the RIAA if they want. They can then sue them for harassing them. OR stealing their initials. Or anything else they want. And the RIAA will have to go and defend themselves in court. This happens daily with many corporations. Th
                • You're neglecting the fact that most people, in general, do not have the money to hire a team of lawyers required to pursue a defense against the RIAA much less counter sue. Money is the 800lb. gorilla that the RIAA is using to their advantage in these cases, they have lots of it and the accused don't.

                  So guilt or innocence has nothing to do with the outcome for most, they'll pay the fine because it's cheaper and the RIAA will rack up another notch in it's legal belt.

                • What you are missing is in the US, anyone has the right to sue anyone else. Yes, the RIAA can sue these people and they will have to go to court and defend themsleves. If they are innocent, they will have their day in court and the case will be thrown out.

                  You're assuming they would have the financial resources to do so. That is something the average person doesn't have, given the likelyhood that the legal fees will run into the tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum. There is something wrong with the
        • Re:You know what? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by antiMStroll ( 664213 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @02:34AM (#7526523)
          Conversely, if the intent of the legal system is to prevent and redress harm done, those laws have no right to exist until that harm is proven. Laws don't exist in a vacuum, they serve a purpose and must be justified beyond expressing the wish of lobbyists.
        • Re:You know what? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @03:37AM (#7526706) Homepage
          Maybe we ought to let people distribute those works then -- if the laws are at such odds with people's expectations of how things ought to work that we're seeing lawsuits by industry against children, it sounds as though the laws are in serious need of reform.

          It's a bit like prohibition basically -- everyone at the time thought it was a good idea, but no one lived up to it, and it turned out to be mind bogglingly stupid. We were best rid of it.

          Sometimes laws that are at odds with people's norms of behavior can and should be pushed through anyway. Desegregation for example. But look at how important of an issue that was. And how hard and painful it was to set things right, or at least make them better than they had been.

          Copyright is not so important as to warrant that sort of effort. I think we'd be better off reducing it, and thus cases like this are useful in showing us _why_ we ought to reduce it; so that these suits are not brought in the future.
          • Re:You know what? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ratamacue ( 593855 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @09:21AM (#7527451)
            It's a bit like prohibition basically -- everyone at the time thought it was a good idea, but no one lived up to it, and it turned out to be mind bogglingly stupid. We were best rid of it.

            Is this a joke? Prohibition today is more destructive, more wasteful, and more immoral than ever before. For christ sakes, the US has the highest inmate/population ratio in the world, and over half of those "criminals" were convicted on non-violent drug offenses.

            Alcohol prohibition was certainly destructive to society, driving up the murder rate and transforming a legitimate, peaceful market into a free-for-all for violent criminals. How exactly is modern prohibition any different?

      • by parakyte ( 121130 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:19AM (#7526190)
        This mantra is starting to disturb me. In my opinion any law that allows corporations to sue perfectly normal teenagers for hundreds of thousands of dollars is wrong and needs to be changed.

        I think it's good to protect ownership of creative content but protecting the right of a company to make a profit by distributing music made by someone else has little to do with any issue of creativity or authorship.

        The argument that people are hurting "the artists" by trading music on the internet is extremely weak. Most active musicians make most of their money by playing live shows.

        Record companies made their money by distributing music to consumers more cheaply than any alternative means. The cost of buying a CD is factors of magnitude less than the cost of hiring your favorite band. In an age where the distribution of recorded music was difficult this made sense. It no longer makes sense. Most of the cost of recorded music goes to promotion and distribution, but the internet has made promotion and distribution cheap and easy.

        It's time for a new business model. Perhaps less music will be recorded if there isn't a profit to be made anymore, but maybe more people will be involved in the creative process.
        • Your entire argument was weak.

          This mantra is starting to disturb me. In my opinion any law that allows corporations to sue perfectly normal teenagers for hundreds of thousands of dollars is wrong and needs to be changed.

          Even if those "perfectly normal" teenagers were illegaly distributing copyrighted works knowing full well it is illegal? I still do not understand the leniency around here with regards to just grabbing music without paying for it. I have yet to read a single valid argument for it.

          I t
          • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @03:45AM (#7526729) Homepage
            Those companies own the recordings to distribute. That's how they make their money. You seem to be implying it's a-okay to just take copies and not pay for it, for no reason. Would you say the same for warez? How about movies?

            Sure. No one ever said that the laws had to be favorable towards their making money. There used to be a thriving industry in patent medicines in this country -- then we created the FDA and it ran all of those snake oil hucksters out of business. This was not a bad thing, despite destroying their ability to make money.

            As for why we might want to do this, it's for the same reason. If we thought that the public would be better off being able to copy works (assume that we might merely alter, rather than outright abolish, copyright, e.g. by reducing term lengths) than we would be otherwise, even taking into account the effect that this might have on the creation of works, than frankly we'd be stupid to _not_ do it.

            After all, why would you not want to be as best off as possible?

            We only grant copyrights in the first place due to a belief that we're better off doing so than we would be if we didn't; certainly through most of history we didn't have copyrights and no one complained.

            Given people's attitudes, the increased ease of publishing and creation (e.g. not every movie needs to have a zillion dollar budget -- those may be unsustainable with regards to the laws they need to be worth creating not being justified), etc. the time might be ripe for cutting back on copyright protection in order to make everyone better off than we are right now.
          • by hankaholic ( 32239 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @08:15AM (#7527251)
            As I see it, and I have a feeling that the founders of this country might agree, excessive copyright terms steal works from the public domain.

            Copyright is supposedly a limited monopoly on distribution of a given work granted by the public in return for the owner's courtesy of sharing their work. This was meant to encourage creators to share their work widely, as it would enrich the public domain when the clock ran out on the limited monopoly.

            However, copyright terms have been getting longer and longer. Since the moment distribution of recorded music became commercially possible, new works have stopped entering the public domain.

            Add this to the fact that the RIAA does do an incredible job of promoting their own music, but doesn't do such a good job of making it clear that their music is used with permission. Usually the use of music in a movie is mentioned late in the credits, when most of the audience has wandered out. Listening to the radio spew out song after song at no cost to me other than the time spent dealing with (listening to or avoiding) commercials, I hear no legal notices explaining that the songs were used with permission from the relevant parties. Stations have to pause periodically for identification. Perhaps it would clarify to the general public that the music is used with permission if they would pause from time to time in a similar manner to explain whose permission allowed them to play such music and to remind the public that the music is a tightly controlled resource.

            When you see a trademark used in print, there's a little symbol used to explain to people that the symbol in question is, indeed, trademarked. The fact that copyrighted works require no similar annotation allows the RIAA to dangle their music in front of our noses before slapping us the minute we start to believe that they're actually giving it to us for free.

            All of this has lead to a public which doesn't understand why the radio can redistribute music, but we the people cannot. The situation also leads me to believe that the public is attempting to get a refund for the time-limited monopoly it has granted.

            To put it in real-world terms, if I agree to let you borrow my car for a few hours in exchange for you washing it for me, that is a reasonable deal. You have exclusive possession of my car, but I benefit in the end.

            However, if you were to try to extend the term beyond hours to days or even weeks without offering me significantly more benefit, I'd definitely reconsider the arrangement.

            The RIAA hasn't brought the car back yet, and Congress keeps telling them that they can extend the joyride longer and longer. Decades beyond the death of the creator is too long, and the public is saying that the RIAA needs to wash the damned car and bring it back to the public with whom it belongs.
        • by sahala ( 105682 ) * <sahala@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Friday November 21, 2003 @08:21AM (#7527267)
          The argument that people are hurting "the artists" by trading music on the internet is extremely weak.

          With the current business model in the US, music sharing/trading does potentially hurt artist revenues. It sucks, and needs to change.

          Most active musicians make most of their money by playing live shows. Wrong. In the US Musicians can make a decent living from live show ticket sales, percentage of liquor sales, and merchandise sales, but the real money is in royalty payments from performances, recordings, and of course, music sales. A good album release keeps paying the artist without him doing any work so long as the album is bought or music is used commercially (among other things).

          Royalty payments is big money in the music industry, and this is why musicians can get so obsessed with impressing A&R reps to hopefully get signed on to a major label. These labels provide capital and assist with marketing and distribution to wide national and global audiences, something that is difficult for an artist to do on his own. Now there is no rule saying that artists can't make money through performances or other creative means. Unfortunately, and no offense intended, musicians generally aren't savvy businessmen and as much as the "system" is so crappy (odds are less than 1% of getting a record deal even after catching an A&R rep's attention) they tend to see no other way.

          The solution to all this has nothing to do with the Internet, mp3s, or any file sharing technology. Even iTunes isn't too much of a revolution -- it's just another channel for music distribution that happens to play nice with both audiences and record labels. A real change would involve providing complete and available alternatives for (talented) musicians to sustain themselves while still exploring and sharing their musical universes.

          Nuff said...this is already about to spill into another discussion altogether.

      • Re:You know what? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dubiousmike ( 558126 )
        I don't think that any of us would want OUR work used and shared without our permission, but look at what happens to those who get caught with a black box. You get a fine and you (or your parents) don't get cable under their name for the rest of their lives.

        But you aren't paying some rediculous fee for "each program" you watched, or could have watched.

        Nope, they slap you with a small fine (not sue you for a huge one and settle if they will look like ogres if they continue). Doesn't the cable industry lo
      • Re:You know what? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rifter ( 147452 )

        I don't get people around here.

        The girl was illegally sharing copyrighted materials. She was one of many who have been contacted.

        Slashdot, in a typical tactic of propoganda latches onto one example and drives it home. A 12 year old! A 15 year old!

        Meanwhile, no matter how you shake it, they're still doing the legal thing--protecting their copyrighted works! Even Jamie of Slashdot knows what that is about--threatening the daily Slashdot summary site because they are "illegal."

        Both girls professed a pr

    • by TyrranzzX ( 617713 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @02:09AM (#7526423) Journal
      Wrong, P2P apps have plenty of uses. Books are one of them, and I get lots of books off of the app. I got a good one a few days ago on sequences and series and boolean logic, and thanks to it I have a good founding on how boolean logic works. I also get programs that I can't get like a 10 year old midi editor I had that the disks got corrupted in. P2P is going to grow and grow both in sheer bandwidth and broadness of content. There's not a lot the RIAA or corperations can do to stop it accept completly shut off their information systems. To say that the only use is illegal is pure bullshit. What's wrong is forever copyright. You make some music, you market it, you get your reward and now it's open to everyone in a couple of years. Why must the beatles, aerosmith, and countless bands be under copyright? To keep them from competing with todays music. If I put together a good music archive ver 1, a couple hundred megs of good choice select music and threw it out on p2p some people would be set for 2 or 3 years of good listen. 10 billion a year industry my ass.

      It's also an unfortunate fact that most of the current music and media is censored. If it weren't then people would make great music that makes you think instead of the crap briteny spears cranks out of her ass. System of a down and Eminem are good examples of music that makes you think. When eminem made a song about killing his wife, people thought. It showed emotion and what hate is, gave the reasons for it, made ya sick. What if all music was like that? People would think instead of droning on. The RIAA is a dinosaur; it takes far more food to saciate a dinosaur than it does a couple hundred small humans, if the weather gets too cold or warm, they die. And finally, in our hit-by-a-gigantic-meteor world, they are slowly dieng off for all of these reasons.

      All they will accomplish with sueing p2p sharers is to push file sharers underground to apps with better and better security. Some of the congressmen in our goverment are thinking "Uh, they're doing what?".

      As for what this will do, I can tell you right now. "Oh fsck, I can't share eminem anymore! But I can share this porn on beta, and some funker fogt or de/vision! " In this fashon, music that's copyrighted by the RIAA won't be shared, and the good cyberpunk, indie and compeditive stuff will be shared. "*search for pop* devision, wtf are they?". When you type in Techno or electronic ebm you won't get a bunch of RIAA garbage, you'll get independant stuff. This will, in turn, increase sales and popularity of independant music and independant labels and take away the RIAA's consumeristic base slowly but surely.

      This is in fact the reason their music sales dropped 15%; part of it is that nobody likes their tactics, part of it is that they are destroying their primary medium of advertising, and part of it is what I talked about above.

      In the end, however, p2p will live on despite their actions. If without music fine, it'll just become a vast ever growing sea of porn, books, files, warez apps and other junk. You can't block the apps, you can't track them down, and you can't stop them without pulling a lot of shit. And if all else fails listen to some good ol' rantradio ( Because nothin' on there is RIAA copyrighted and they're one of the only completly legal and completly independant internet radio stations.

    • My guess is that music file sharing won't disappear; it'll just go further underground to something that's more difficult to track back to individual users.

      One obvious candidate would seem to be FreeNet. IMHO the only thing stopping FreeNet being used for music file sharing is that most people don't know it exists and there's no music-specific-and-easy-to-use client for it - if/when someone addresses those two issues, it's going to be game over as far as file swapping is concerned.
  • What's stopping (Score:2, Interesting)

    by akaina ( 472254 ) *
    What's stopping them from asking for $5000, or $10,000, or $50,000?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Or for that matter, [pinkie to lip] one MILLION dollars.
    • Re:What's stopping (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dougmc ( 70836 ) <> on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:27AM (#7525871) Homepage
      What's stopping them from asking for $5000, or $10,000, or $50,000?
      They want people to settle. If one of these suits actually goes to court, the RIAA is not guaranteed to win, and if they do lose a case, it will undermine their campaign.

      By offering to settle for less than it will cost to even defend against such a suit, they've pretty much guaranteed that nobody will actually let it go to court. And the people that actually have enough money to fight this just on the principle of the thing have much more to lose if they lose -- so they're likely to settle as well.

      Presumably, their purpose is not to make money, or even to punish those they sue ... instead, the idea is to scare the 99.99% of the people out there that they don't sue.

    • Re:What's stopping (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bakes ( 87194 )
      Probably because $3500 is small enough that they can probably pay it somehow, and large enough to scare off other people.

      If the asking price gets too large, the kiddie will just say 'I don't have that' and go for bankruptcy or something - which also means bad press for RIAA. If RIAA come up with a smaller amount and it gets paid, RIAA trumpets another 'win'.

      That'd be my guess.
  • by anaphora ( 680342 ) * on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:06AM (#7525691) Journal
    Every time I read stories like this, I feel an extreme sense of paranoia that the RIAA is going to come busting down my door and demand money for my songs. Then I realize...I turned off file sharing, which makes the penalties MUCH, MUCH less. The penalties for DISTRIBUTING music run about 750$ per file. The penalties for downloading music run about 99c/file (You just have to reimburse them for the cost of buying) [], under Title 17, Chapter 5, S504, b. If bad comes to worst, I'll sort through my selection of 400 some-odd files, count out how many are indie or not coverred by the RIAA, which will be around 300, and then pay them their $1,000 and be on my way, having beaten the music industry. Then I realize once again, they're not coming for me because I don't use FastTrack []. [Note, IANAL]
    • by jonblaze ( 140753 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:33AM (#7525915)
      The penalties for downloading music run about 99c/file (You just have to reimburse them for the cost of buying), under Title 17, Chapter 5, S504, b.

      Incomplete. You must've missed the very next subsection, which clearly provides: [T]he copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just.
    • by nudicle ( 652327 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:49AM (#7526029)
      yes 17 5 504 b defines "actual damages" but that won't help you.

      read 504(a)(1) and (2) ... the plaintiff is entitles to ask either for actual damages OR statutory damages. In your case you can bet they'll go for statutory. If you've got 300 infringements then you're paying between 750 and 30,000 per.

      any time before final judgment the plaintiff can ask for statutory damages.

      if you were to make that argument in court the riaa lawyer would chuckle and say something to the effect of "thanks for playing, game over." and then you'd get the hose of justice where i'm sure you don't want it.

  • by PDG ( 100516 ) <> on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:06AM (#7525693) Homepage
    Has anyone considered a class action countersuit on behalf of p2p users for harrassment and extortion by the RIAA. This sort of thing was being done by SmartCard readers recently harrassed by DirecTV.
  • by Popadopolis ( 724438 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:07AM (#7525704) Journal
    You would think that an organization of, well, music companies would have something better to do than attack individual users for a crime that doesnt really matter. Honestly, shouldn't they be working on techniques to lower the cost of CDs so people, you know, start buying them again? Damn, but the RIAA really pisses me off, which I am sure is a sediment of many here in /. .
  • by whackco ( 599646 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:07AM (#7525705) Journal
    I know I would represent myself under the 'my computer was compromised by Windowz insecurities and I didn't know this was going on' defense?!?!?!
  • 1100 FILES??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AbbyNormal ( 216235 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:08AM (#7525709) Homepage
    Good God! What's the address, before they take her down?

    All kidding aside, ehh. She is sharing illegal files. She got caught. I'm not really seeing the "Shock and Awe" about this news article.
    • The 100+ million dollar figure isn't suprising to you?
      • Re:1100 FILES??? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AbbyNormal ( 216235 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:15AM (#7525783) Homepage
        Nope. C'mon, we all need to get over this stuff. She knew what she was doing was illegal because it has been plastered everywhere across the web and news. She knew she could very easily get caught and that there would be a harsh penalty involved. She gambled and lost, just as many others are doing.
        • Re:1100 FILES??? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by antiMStroll ( 664213 )
          She knew she could very easily get caught and that there would be a harsh penalty involved.

          No, she didn't. Neither did her parents. Read the article.

          You have no problem with companies buying 'harsh penalty' legislation for crimes without proof of harm?

    • Re:1100 FILES??? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by secolactico ( 519805 )
      All kidding aside, ehh. She is sharing illegal files. She got caught. I'm not really seeing the "Shock and Awe" about this news article

      Indeed. The 12 year old's case was all over the news. How could this person not have been aware of it?

      She willingly chose to share her files when everyone has been talking about the RIAA actions.

      Do they see file sharing as "civil disobedience" and think that will really change the laws/industry? Stop supporting RIAA's artists (and I use the term loosely) if you want t
    • Pah... 1,100 files is nothing, why I have... Umm, that's $750 per song minimum. Let's see, multiply by the number of songs on my server, my laptop, the misc. other systems around the house, carry the 1, uhh... Uh oh.

      On second thought, NOPE, I have no music at ALL! Nope, I'm entirely pirate music free! You happy RIAA lawyers have a great day and thanks for keeping me honest.
  • Beat the RIAA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anaphora ( 680342 ) * on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:08AM (#7525714) Journal
    The key to being safe from the RIAA: Don't listen to music owned by the RIAA [].
  • Why is this news? Sure its Goliath picking on David again, but what's new about that?

    Here's a better question. Why complain about the RIAA doing what the RIAA does? Go change the law or do something productive.

    Complaining about this is like complaining that lions kill antelope. Either kill the lion, kill the antelope, or put a fence between them!

  • by KD5YPT ( 714783 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:08AM (#7525717) Journal
    For the past few months (okay, a few years) I was somewhat sympathetic about RIAA's action. Even though I don't like it, it's the only way they know to go about it. Even when they sued a twelve years old, I was hoping it would be one of their "shock" cases... but this just went too far. If they were doing some drastic remodeling of their business model when they sue people, I would still be sympathetic. But now, they just sue, sue and sue and no actice action on how to repair it at the base, their own out-dated business model.
  • by theparanoidcynic ( 705438 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:09AM (#7525721)
    Can you actually sue a minor in the USA? Hell, I'm 20 and I can't drink beer there, but a 15 year old kid can get sued? What the fuck is that?
  • Good idea? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hexydes ( 705837 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:09AM (#7525723)
    First they sue a 12 year old girl, and now a 15 year old girl. Is their new plan of attack to sue the only portion of their demographic that are still buying CDs?
  • I can understand why people object to them suing anyone, but as long as they're going to sue someone, why not a teenager? It's not like teenagers aren't aware that freely downloading copyrighted music is illegal.
    • There is a lot of free music on Internet, and it is not always obvious which one is which - especially if you are a teen girl, and not a lawyer.
  • What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by A.T. Hun ( 192737 )
    While I am certainly no fan of the RIAA nor its tactics, I'm getting a little sick of the "I didn't know it was wrong" defense. Come on. 1,100 songs downloaded, parents oblivious, child claiming ignorance. Anybody see a problem here? You can argue until you are blue in the face whether or not the copyright laws should be changed. You can argue (persuasively, I might add) that the RIAA is heavy-handed. But don't come off pretending to be ignorant. The law is clear. This is theft.

    Ignorantia legis neminem exc
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dricci ( 470949 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:14AM (#7525776)
      And copyright infringement is not theft.
    • The law is clear. This is theft.
      Copyright infringement, and therefor a civil matter. Not, strictly, theft.

      The RIAA is more akin to Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabris, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by amarkham ( 153845 ) * on Friday November 21, 2003 @04:45AM (#7526840)
      I, like a minority of /. readers, totally agree that downloading music is illegal. However, a reasonably intelligent computer-using friend of mine told me she wasn't going to start using the iTunes Music Store, because it was probably cheaper to keep using Limewire which only costs her $20/year. I quickly explained to her that the $20 only covered the use of the software and that it didn't make it legal to download music. She was VERY surprised to learn that and I was VERY surprised that she didn't realize it.

      However, most people don't "get it" like we do and still need to have it occasionally explained to them more fully. Not that she is absolved of any responsibility, as I'm sure the fine print makes this all very clear, but there can be mitigating circumstances.

      Just my $0.02.
  • by TypeMRT ( 678353 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:11AM (#7525744)
    99.6% off sounds like a deal to me.
  • Factory owners terrorizing workers who were unionizing in the early 20th century, or Al Capone. And I seem to remember that the Unions won, and that Capone went to jail.

    However, you also have to remember that back then the common people actually had spines. They knew they were probably going to get raped; They didn't bend over and they sure as hell didn't relax and enjoy it.

    It's like Marty says in BTTF 1: "If you don't stand up now, he'll walk all over you for the rest of your life!"
  • by Hexydes ( 705837 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:15AM (#7525785)
    Isn't the nature of punishment in these cases to deter the perpetrator from commiting the crime again, not threatening to destroy their life with monetary charges that they could never possibly hope to repay?

    I think that $3,500 is fair. If they went to court and won that amount, I would consider it fair. But extorting money from a 15 year old girl is just as bad as downloading 1,100 songs, if not much worse.

  • You know, it's not okay for the RIAA to sue college students and adults. But it's at least slightly morally acceptable. After all, these are adults you're suing, they know stuff has consquences.

    (begin rant)

    But once those jackasses begin suing minors, that's where I draw the f***ing line. Doesn't the RIAA know that they're pushing away the people they need to make money? This girl's going to have her plight featured on the local news TV/newspaper, probably going to be the lead story. What effect is that g
  • by JoeLinux ( 20366 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <xunileoj>> on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:16AM (#7525796) Homepage
    and I'll say it again...I sometimes wonder if they are scratching their heads thinking, "What's the matter? We keep suing out customers, and the fuckers still won't buy our products! What's wrong with them?"


    If at first you don't succeed, lower your standard until you have.
  • Wait a second (Score:4, Insightful)

    by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:19AM (#7525815) Journal
    Look, I don't like the RIAA, and I'm doing my best not to support them.

    And I think that in terms of customer relations, the RIAA is making a big mistake, which will turn around and bite them in the ass.

    And I agree that the RIAA has long overcharged for CDs.

    But I also don't download files (or share them) in violation of copyright.

    And I'd sue if my copyright were violated. As for instance, if code I'd licensed under the GPL were used in a closed source product in contravention of the GPL.

    This is ludicrous, but save your moral indignation for Direct TV's suits against people who purchase legal hardware, or for Belkin and its spam-vertising, or for John Ashcroft's willingness to trample the 4th Amendment.

    What the RIAA is doing is stupid and heavy-handed. What the 15 year old did was stupid and illegal. But moral indignation against the RIAA is misplaced.
  • Speaking of which... anyone else getting nice bizzar results when trying to go to the RIAA website []?

  • SBC challenges RIAA over subpoenas []

    'Lawyers from the record industry and telecommunications giant SBC Communications are set to face off in a San Francisco courtroom Friday in a dispute over the record label's legal charges against file swappers'
  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:33AM (#7525912) Journal
    What is the legal situation for suing for actions of a minor? The article says the family are being sued, not the 15 year old. At what age does a person become liable to be sued directly? If the child is not at home when the "offense" occurs, what then? (E.g. if they music-file-shared on a school computer, is the school liable?)

    Another legal question: Say I am about to be sued for everything I own. I liquidate all my assets, go to a casino, and bet the whole lot on a spin of the roulette wheel. If I loose, I'm no worse off (I was going to be bankrupt anyhow), if I win, the winnings pay off the judgement and I still have my money. Effectively I am gambling someone else's money, but I get the winnings. What legal sanctions are there to prevent this?
  • by YouHaveSnail ( 202852 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:40AM (#7525966)
    What I'd really like to know is this:

    Can she settle the case with the stipulation that the settlement does not consitute an admission of guilt?

    If the SEC can settle with Putnam and Morgan Stanley without forcing them to admit wrongdoing after they committed fraud on a huge scale and victimized thousands of innocent people, it seems to me that the RIAA could see its way to giving a 15 year old girl the same courtesy.
  • by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:40AM (#7525968) Homepage
    From the article:

    "However, some local bands say they didn't ask for and don't want protection from fans downloading their music.

    "I'm all for file sharing," said Mark Arm, the lead singer for Mudhoney. "I think it's ridiculous that they're going after 80-year-old women and 15-year-old kids, no matter how many items they've downloaded."

    The biggest artists may have the most to lose. File sharing takes money out of their pockets, because fans download the music rather than buy it.

    Non-mainstream, more independent artists take a different view. File sharing gives them exposure they may not otherwise get. "

    Nice to see that even the mainstream media is beginning to catch on that just because the RIAA bought themselves some laws it doesn't mean they are right. Yes, laws have now been crafted to make it illegal to share, so what she did is "illegal." But she didn't do anything wrong, some music groups understand that, and eventually people will see that file sharing is the best way to advertise.

    Spare me the new /. wave of conservative thought that wants to lecture me about how the corporations are in the right and we should just cooperate and shut up. The RIAA got this one wrong, they are trying to protect a dying business model, and history will show that file sharing increases business, not descreases it.

    Keep in mind, I actually am law-abiding, even though I disagree with the law. But it encourages me when I see the mainstream media begining to see that just because the RIAA says 'file sharing = evil' it isn't necessarily show.

  • by Phosphor3k ( 542747 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:52AM (#7526049)
    Don't be a stupid criminal.
  • by MoeMoe ( 659154 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:53AM (#7526053)
    Leave the toying with children thing to Michael Jackson, RIAA... It's his job to poke around in their pockets not yours.

    Seriously though, the RIAA doesn't care who you are so long as you've got their material without paying for it. Instead of this whole big campaign against people who share their material, why not use it to pay the artists in compensation for the money they "might" be losing?
  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <.ardrake79. .at.> on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:56AM (#7526073) Homepage
    "Megan's unsurprising take: 'Yeah, it seems ridiculous.'"

    Yes, and as to many teenagers, the concept of actions having real consequences seems a little ridiculous too.

    Say whatever you will about the RIAA's tactics, this type of reaction from a teenager is hardly the result of an over-aggressive music industry.

  • by flynt ( 248848 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:58AM (#7526092)
    I remember most Slashdot posts back when the RIAA was trying to get Napster shut down. They were to the effect, "Napster is just a tool, it can be used to share legitimite things too! Go after the actual offenders, not the tool!" Now the RIAA is going after the actual offenders. Guess the general opinion has changed since those Napster days. I called bullshit back then too, we all knew Napster was all about illegal file-sharing back then. Don't believe me? Go back and look through the Slahdot stories covering those issues, you'll see what I mean.
    • No matter how you look at it, if the only way the RIAA knows about something is through illegal wiretapping, which is what they're doing, then they would never win in court. If someone declines to pay the fee, the case will never go to court because the RIAA knows how much damage they'll get if it did.

      Naturally the RIAA probably sends people NDAs and settles for free if someone declines to pay anything. A couple thousand bucks is pennies for them. BUT the cost of going to court, and the publicity, and the
  • by Warpedcow ( 180300 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:21AM (#7526200) Homepage Journal
    By my calculations, my mp3 collection could hit me with a $2.5 Billion dollar fine. Who knew that 100GB could be worth more than the GDP of most third-world countries?


  • by mattr ( 78516 ) <> on Friday November 21, 2003 @03:43AM (#7526726) Homepage Journal
    Just because the RIAA says something doesn't mean it's right. There just isn't anyone with as much clout arguing for relaxation of restrictions, or reduction of prices. However libraries and rental shops have for a long time rented audio/video media.

    Libraries buy books and other items for lending, why couldn't a respectable outfit try to do this digitally? Are libraries illegal now?

    Certainly there are differences between books and digital media, but there still remains a lot of unexploited potential between Fair Use and the Tradition of Libraries. There are even things called interlibrary loans. And there is value in promoting research and telling people about relevant authors which librarians also do. I'm curious about whether there would be any problem with software client that would let a repository track files, and provide the services that libraries generally do. This service would cover print media, audio and video. It might be free, for profit, nonprofit, tax-supported, members only, a coop, or something else. Hopefully it would be international.

    The library would certainly have to pay for its own copies, and it would have to handle only items for which electronic distribution is allowed. But it is also conceivable that through fair use people could register their own music with the library and sign something which says they will not play a given song when it is being played by someone else. Some cryptography may be appropriate, but this is not really so important (except for some signature to identify each file uniquely).

    It may sound like there are lots of loopholes for copying but this is true in many other realms. The public does not bear the burden of inventing ways to enable corporations to infringe on their rights. I am not interested in promoting illegal copying but the kinds of money the RIAA talks about are not part of reality as we know it. I believe that if we want to own our own past and future, we must take steps to do so ourselves. This means discussing the subject with professional librarians, publishers, broadcasters, authors and artists. Then bring on the developers and lastly the business people. It doesn't have to make a billion dollars but it should be a useful service for people of all ages.
  • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @05:00AM (#7526871) Homepage Journal

    All you punk virus writers who are comprimising peoples' computers for the purpose of setting up spam relays, please hear me now!

    We need you to modify your code for the sake of humanity. Please create a virus that installs a standard p2p mp3 filesharing app. You provide all these kids with a defense against these RIAA jackbooted thugs, and you'll have fewer irate admins hunting your asses down over spam. I can promise you that.
  • by RichardX ( 457979 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @05:10AM (#7526887) Homepage
    It's incredible how many people try to justify their use of p2p for sharing copyrighted music. Here's the bottom line. It really does not matter one bit whether it's more like sneaking into a movie theatre than theft, or any other daft analogy you can come up with. It also doesn't matter that the artists/shops/RIAA/whoever is corrupt and evil. Didn't your grandma ever tell you "Two wrongs do not make a right". The absolute bottom line is it results in you gaining something you have no legal or moral right to.

    If you dispute that, please explain how this is different from the people who download full version warez under the premise "I need it to fully evaluate it" - despite the existence of a fully or almost fully functional trial version - and having these "evaluations" last.. well.. permanently.

    The "Information wants to be free" argument invariably falls down when a person who'll quite glibly throw out that catchphrase suddenly falls quiet when asked to "free" their full address and credit card number.

    Finally, I am NOT trying to justify the actions of the RIAA here. I think their behaviour is completely draconian and yet another really bad PR move on their part, but I also think it's somewhat over reacting to paint them as the big mean evil bully picking on the poor little girl for no reason whatsoever. Fact remains, she HAS committed a crime. The only question is whether the punishment is fitting. Personally I would say no, it isn't. It's complete overkill, but that's the ONLY problem I have with the situation here.

    Incidentally, for the triggerhappy mods out there - If you really feel you must mod this as troll or flamebait, then go ahead, but please at least think carefully about it first. Troll != Devil's Advocate
  • Our Priorities... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @08:37AM (#7527292)
    OJ Simpson was found responsible for the deaths of two people and has to pay 25,000,000 dollars to their families.

    This fifteen year old is accused of illegally distributing music and faces a fine of up to 165,000,000 dollars.

    Glad to see we have our priorities straight...

  • by uncadonna ( 85026 ) <> on Friday November 21, 2003 @11:00AM (#7528129) Homepage Journal
    I'm no Kazaa user - I'm elated with iTunes and think its DRM policy is reasonable, and I've never used any Napster-like anonymous P2P. So when I read that the kid said she had no idea she was sharing files, I was dubious. However, she and her attorneys should note that the RIAA prominently asserts exactly that file sharing companies trick kids into file sharing []. From their website:

    In his testimony, [to Congress, RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch] Bainwol urged peer-to-peer network operators to voluntarily implement the following reforms:

    • Change the default setting for their users so that American children, teenagers and others are not automatically - and often unknowingly - uploading music from their hard drive.
    • Institute meaningful disclosure clearly notifying users that uploading and downloading copyrighted materials without permission is a violation of federal law.


    "The law is clear. Yet the understanding of the law is hazy. Why? In large part it's because the file sharing networks like Kazaa deliberately induce people to break the law," testified Bainwol.

    If this is true, the RIAA has a point. Such behavior on the part of the P2P services is hard to justify.

    On the other hand, it means the kids using the service according to official RIAA testimony often lack intent to violate laws in general or to redistribute copyrighted material in particular ! The sort of random shakedown of well-intentioned end users (SCO anyone?) that we are now seeing is outrageous and enromously destructive, far worse than a total collapse of the recorded music industry would be.

    If I can be assaulted by a squad of corporate attorneys when I think I am minding my own business, I will simply be inclined to avoid using any products whatsover that include any technology invented after about 1910.

    If this kind of malicious attorney-goon-squad behavior is legal, it shouldn't be. Now here's a place for a federal law.

  • Statistical anomaly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Przepla ( 637674 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @11:43AM (#7528515)
    Does anyone wonder why publicised cases when RIAA prosecutes underage kids for copyright violations involve extremely young females?
    I mean, most sharers (as well as Internet users capable of installing and configuring P2P software) are males. I'd expect the most hit group to be 16-21 years old males.
    Or just media are focusing on those few very young girls within 260 people (as stated in the article) sued by the RIAA.
  • by JustAnotherReader ( 470464 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:18PM (#7529498)
    "We cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying the livelihoods of artists, musicians, and songwriters"

    said RIAA President Cary Sherman. "That's our job!"

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva