Chelsea Conn is the 19-year-old University of Tennessee sophomore who recently dished out $3,000 to settle with the RIAA rather than face a lawsuit as reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel last week.
I wish Chelsea would have read my previous posts on this topic before settling. It is my firm conviction that the RIAA is simply using scare tactics to try and recoup a small portion of the millions of dollars they are losing every year. They give the “guilty” party this easy to access settlement website which cost them very little to setup and maintain and then send out thousands of letters counting on a certain percentage of letters to successfully scare their customers and/or potential customers into paying a settlement fee.
I honestly feel bad that Miss Conn had to borrow the money from her parents and will now need to work to repay them.
“That’ll be all summer,” she said. “I don’t mind paying it back. It was my fault.”
So here are 5 reasons not to settle with the RIAA:
1. Lack of Evidence: Chances are the RIAA doesn’t have anything to prove that you were actually downloading or uploading music via a file sharing application. This point is made stronger if you have uploading disabled.
2. Cost of Lawyers: Lawyers for big companies and organizations like the RIAA charge a hefty hourly rate, probably around $200-$300/hr if not higher. It would be very unlikely for the RIAA to try to come after an individual when the cost of litigation is so high and the lack of evidence (1) is so great. Hire a lawyer for a couple hundred dollars and have him/her write a letter that asks for further correspondence to go through his firm and chances are you won’t hear back from them.
3. Legality of Copying Music: Several court cases have determined that music owners are allowed to make copies of their files in order to protect from loss or damage. If you have previously purchased a copy of the files on your hard drive you are entitled to have more than one digital copy legally. You could probably make this argument for downloading files that you already own
4. Ignorance of Software: Usually ignorance to the law doesn’t get you vary far, but ignorance on the particulars of a given piece of software (like KAZAA) is probably fairly arguable in court. Software applications have become increasingly more complicated and harder to understand for common users as technology has advanced. It is conceivable to think that many of the folks using file sharing software like KAZAA have no idea that they are actually allowing others to download music from their personal library. In reality, the end user might have installed KAZAA to download open licensed music and accidentally or unknowingly allowed others to access their personal music collection.
5. Customers Don’t Pay For Mistakes Of Corporations: This last reason isn’t a legal point (although I could think of a hundred more) as much as it is a personal complaint. The RIAA and the companies it represents failed to address or chose to ignore the changes in technology and are losing money as a result. Most of the money they are losing is not because of people downloading music illegally (at least in the US), but rather it is from people using technology to be more selective in their purchase. Instead of buying Beyonce’s latest CD for $15, they are buying the 3 songs they like off of the CD for $.99 a piece. Why pay for 8 songs you don’t even like?
The reality is that you don’t find many artists trying to sue their fans because the RIAA takes 90% of the money from CD sales. The artists make most of their money touring and selling merchandise. Further, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t support their favorite bands by buying their CD’s. I have every DMB CD ever created by the band because I want to support their music and their families.
Bottom Line: Illegal downloading of music is a much smaller problem then the RIAA claims. Companies like Sony are wasting millions of dollars researching useless DRM solutions like the one that installed a root kit on your computer. Their decline in revenue in recent years is of their own doing, but they want to blame it on you the consumer and loyal customer. Don’t fall prey to their scare tactics, hire a lawyer. RIAA sucks, so says FoxTrot.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this post should not be considered legal advice.