Simon B of No Rock’N’Roll Fun (the best music blogger bar none) thinks there’s something very wrong with the way the RIAA is forcing people to pay ridiculous sums to settle lawsuits resulting from MP3 downloading; as he points out:
people are being bounced into settling for absurd figures because they’re scared. [One person] had to take out a second mortgage to keep the RIAA happy – a second mortgage to pay for a few hundred downloads; a second mortgage to pay for a few hundred bucks worth of recordings. All being done, claim the RIAA, in the name of the artists. But which artists really want people to have to put their homes at risk? Is this what David Cassidy wants? Or Axl Rose? Is Moby happy with this?
This is something covered in Lawrence Lessig’s book, which I mentioned a few days ago. Because US copyright law means that you can be fined up to $150,000 per infringement – so ten trips to Kazaa could leave you liable for fines of up to $1.5 million – anyone targeted by the record industry is faced with Hobson’s Choice. If you fight and lose, you could end up being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars; if you fight and win, you’ll still face thousands of dollars in legal fees. As a result, the RIAA can demand sums of $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 from the people it accuses of file sharing, safe in the knowledge that any sensible person would pay up.
So far, the RIAA has targeted some 3,935 people. As Simon B concludes: “Punishing copyright violation is one thing, but wrecking people’s lives over a handfull of songs? It’s going too far.”