Record Companies Drop File-Sharing Lawsuit Against Internet-Illiterate Mom - InformationWeek

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12/20/2006
02:38 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Record Companies Drop File-Sharing Lawsuit Against Internet-Illiterate Mom

We're learning the rules: If you're Internet-illiterate, the recording industry will back off of suing you for music piracy. Likewise, you won't be sued if your dad is president of a record company. However, if you're dead, you better watch out.

We're learning the rules: If you're Internet-illiterate, the recording industry will back off of suing you for music piracy. Likewise, you won't be sued if your dad is president of a record company. However, if you're dead, you better watch out.

The Associated Press reports: "The recording industry is giving up its lawsuit against Patti Santangelo, a mother of five who became the best-known defendant in the industry's battle against music piracy. However, two of her children are still being sued."

Five music companies filed a motion in federal court in White Plains, N.Y., asking to have their lawsuit against Santangelo dismissed. But they're continuing to pursue a case against her two children. And they're asking to have the case against Santangelo dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could revive it later.

Santangelo said she'd never downloaded music, didn't know whether her children were doing it, and if the children were doing it, file-sharing programs like Kazaa should be blamed, not parents. The judge said she's an "Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo."

Santangelo refused to settle and became a heroine to the digerati, who raised money for her defense.

The record companies are still going after Santangelo's 20-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, saying they'd downloaded and distributed more than 1,000 recordings.

Techdirt provides its typical caustic commentary under the headline: "RIAA Drops Case It Can't Make Against Mom After Bleeding Her Dry -- Focuses On Suing Kids," noting that the overwhelming majority of these file-sharing cases are settled out of court, and that the music companies face no real penalty for abusing the courts.

Techdirt also looks at statistics showing file sharing actually helps musicians.

So if you're computer-illiterate, apparently you're safe from the record companies' lawyers.

But not if you're dead.

Record companies last year sued an 83-year-old woman, charging that she served up 700 songs on file-sharing networks. Turned out the defendant, according to her daughter, "didn't want PCs in the house, and had absolutely zero experience operating them." And was also, oh, yeah, dead. Prior to that, record companies sued a 66-year-old woman for sharing gangsta rap. Because the 60+ generation is known for its enjoyment of gangsta rap. (Are Crosby, Stills, Nash, or Young gangstas?).

The penalty for music piracy is clear, according to the record companies: Lawsuits and back-breaking financial penalties. Unless, that is, Daddy is a rich music industry exec. In that case, you should expect a stern talking-to.

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