RIAA Settles 52 Suits

New round of charges expected next month

September 30, 2003 12:00 AM ET

The Recording Industry Association of America has announced that it has settled fifty-two of the 261 lawsuits filed against music listeners who allowed others to download music from their computers through file-sharing software.

The settlements reportedly ranged from $2,500 to $7,500, though one is believed to have exceeded $10,000. The deals include no admission of wrongdoing, but the defendants must delete the files from their computers and refrain from making public statements inconsistent with the settlement. After filing the first round of suits, the RIAA announced its Clean Slate program, which offers amnesty to those who had illegally traded files online in exchange for a formal admission of guilt and a promise to remove pirated material from their computers. According to the RIAA, more than 800 people have requested such amnesty.

Announced on September 8th, the suits quickly earned the RIAA bad publicity when the New York Post put a picture of accused downloader Brianna LaHara, 12, on the front page of the paper. LaHara claimed that by paying a monthly subscription fee for Kazaa, she was downloading within the parameters of the law. Her family settled for $2,000. Also hit was seventy-one-year-old Durwood Pickle in Richardson, Texas; he said he rarely uses his computer, but his grandchildren had been downloading songs on it.

"We knew that the press would find poster children as a result of this program," RIAA president Cary Sherman told Rolling Stone. "But you have to choose between your wish to be loved and your wish to survive."

The RIAA plans to file another round of lawsuits next month. The organization has so far been targeting "major offenders" who have downloaded what it considers "substantial amounts" of songs, usually more than 1,000. It estimates that the number of lawsuits could grow from hundreds to thousands.

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