RIAA v. The People: Five Years Later

On September 8, 2003, the recording industry sued 261 American music fans for sharing songs on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks, kicking off an unprecedented legal campaign against the people that should be the recording industry’s best customers: music fans.1 Five years later, the recording industry has filed, settled, or threatened legal actions against at least 30,000 individuals.2 These individuals have included children, grandparents, unemployed single mothers, college professors—a random selection from the millions of Americans who have used P2P networks. And there’s no end in sight; new lawsuits are filed monthly, and now they are supplemented by a flood of "pre-litigation" settlement letters designed to extract settlements without any need to enter a courtroom.3

But suing music fans has proven to be an ineffective response to unauthorized P2P file-sharing. Downloading from P2P networks is more popular than ever, despite the widespread public awareness of lawsuits.4 And the lawsuit campaign has not resulted in any royalties to artists. One thing has become clear: suing music fans is no answer to the P2P dilemma.

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