RIAA vs. Parents: It’s all over bar the shouting

The RIAA has lost a key case where it attempted to sue a mother over her 13-year old child’s file sharing abilities.

I have long been a critic of Big Music’s practice of suing parents whose children illegally shared copyrighted music. Not because I approve of file-sharing – I don’t – but because the punishment does not fit the crime.

The music business tends to assume that 1 file shared = 1000 lost sales, or something like that. I do not believe this to be true – quite the opposite, in fact; there is evidence that file-sharing may actually stimulate sales. They also believe that the Law Enforcement community is obliged to do their dirty work for them.
The music business has delighted in the thousands of lawsuits with which they have threatened parents, all of who have settled for thousands of dollars apiece – none of which finds its way to the artists that the RIAA purports to represent, but that’s another story.It was only a matter of time before one parent decided to fight back, but it has finally happened. The court dismissed the case with prejudice, (which means that the RIAA got their hats handed to them before being unceremoniously booted out of the courtroom) on the grounds that “the mother couldn’t be held to be liable for letting her daughter share music online”.

That’s got to hurt.

Now that a precedent has been established, it’s also going to open the floodgates for those who are being and have been sued, as it effectively exposes the RIAA’s legal actions as thinly-disguised extortion.

The RIAA can still take legal action – but they have to go up against the children themselves. I don’t believe that they have the guts to do this, but if they do, it would be precisely the wrong thing to do. Children have no money, and are not old enough to enter into legal agreements. Suing your future customers is not an intelligent business model.

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