To Fight RIAA Lawsuit Mom Solicits Donations

By Jon Newton 12/22/05

As the next move in the Patti Santangelo Fight Goliath fund-raising campaign, Jason Rohrer is writing a script which will allow everyone who wants to contribute to post an amount directly into a special PayPal account.

Patti is the New York working mother with five children who's decided she's not going to be further victimized by Sony BMG, Vivendi Universal, Warner Music or EMI, the multi-billion-dollar members of the Organized Music cartel which has been trying to extort 'settlement' money from her, and more than 17,000 others like her, including school kids.


Jon Newton

Of the people who've so far been attacked by the music industry since 2003, not one has been found guilty of anything and not one has appeared in court.

Patti is flatly refusing to pay for something she didn't do and when she presents her case to a jury on an as-yet to be determined date, she'll be the first to meet these hard-core, multi-billion-dollar bullies with their teams of PR hacks, their bought-and-paid for politicians, their unimaginably vast financial and legal resources, face-to-face.

And she'll be doing it alone, without expert help or legal representation.

The author of the MUTE indie p2p application, among other things, Rohrer wrote the script used by DownhillBattle way back to raise money for RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) victims and strangely, and coincidentally, he too is in the middle of a lawsuit, he too is representing himself and he too is in New York. But his case doesn't involve file sharing or p2p networks.

"We have natural meadow landscaping around our house instead of a lawn," Rohrer tells p2pnet. "Our property has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat. Of course, a meadow includes some tall grasses (in some places, our grasses are waist-high). Our village has a 'mowing ordinance' that forbids grass from exceeding 10 inches in height. The ordinance was enforced against 34 traditionally mowed lawns in 2005 and one natural meadow landscape (ours).

"I was brought to trial for violation of the ordinance. I represented myself and presented a constitutional law argument. I filed a 16-page memorandum of law with the court as part of my defense. I called an expert witness (a landscape architect and former government official in our county) to testify. The trial lasted over three hours.

"We expect a decision from the judge in a few months."

Yesterday, the day after the hearing, Rohrer told us he felt good about the way things had gone.

On the application he's writing for the Santangelo Fight Goliath campaign, anyone with a blog or a web page will be able to post it on his or her site and readers will be able to watch as the amount grows.

There will also be a snail-mail address for people who don't use, or who don't want to use, PayPal.

You'll be able to help Patti by contributing whatever you can afford. The money will pay for legal costs, which will be substantial.

And bear this in mind. The only reason the Big Four have gotten away with it for so long is they're well aware that none of the thousands of people they're attacking has the money to fight back.

Here's a note from Patti:

My choice to fight the RIAA’s lawsuit was made when I received a call from a settlement center saying I'd already been sued. I assumed that once I explained to them that there was no music on my computer and that I never had purchased or signed up for a peer-to-peer program and actually didn't even know what it was, that they'd drop the entire thing.

After all it was the truth.

Giving them a financial settlement to make it go away would make sense for those who were knowingly committing these acts of piracy and who are getting off a lot easier than I am. That seems to be the problem with the entire process. If you're guilty of what they say, pay up. If you're not, pay up or it will cost you even more.

For me to sign an affidavit saying that I'd cease doing something that I was not doing would have been a lie and that's against everything I believe in.

My initial feeling about the lawsuit was confusion because the computer that my children used when my IP provider was sued for my name I no longer owned, and the computer I did have in our new home had no music on it at all.

The copy of the lawsuit that I received after being named had a KAZAA account with an e-mail I did not recognize and which didn't belong to anyone in my family.

I had no choice but to fight this and feel that I have no choice but to continue.

I believe there are legitimate issues with how the lawsuits are filed and with the tactics used to scare people into financial settlements. I also have very strong feelings about how, if this did happen on my computer, KAZAA could allow a child to obtain an account that could be potentially dangerous to the child and the parent without parental authorization or the authorization of the person who owned the computer. I do believe that recent lawsuits against p2p networks have changed this but that doesn't help the people who have already been forced to settle, or the 12-year-olds still being sued.

I would like to make my feelings clear that I do understand the musician’s right to protect their copyrights. I am lucky enough to know a few very talented musicians and song writers and I support and respect their hard work and wouldn't want anyone stealing from them. The internet has made it possible for new artists to be heard and that's a wonderful thing, but let's not use that as an excuse not to buy their albums. I will and my family will always support the musicians.

I was confident that my attorney’s motion to have the case dismissed due to lack of a specific time that copyright infringement took place was an excellent defense and they did a very good job. I was disappointed but understanding that Judge McMahon is doing what she believes needs to be done with this case.

The papers have been filed stating that I wish to continue without an attorney and we are waiting for the Court's response. This was a mutual decision and based primarily on the cost of this action which I could never be in position to afford. I would like to thank Mr. Beckerman and his associates for all of their hard work.

Thanks also to p2pnet and all readers for their support

Have a peaceful Holiday Season
Patti Santangelo

(Ray Beckerman is the Beldock Levine & Hoffman lawyer who until recently was representing Patti. He runs the Recording Industry vs The People site.)

Meanwhile, if you're a member of the mainstream media who's reading this, please bear these points in mind:

The members of Organized Music are using corporate music stores such as iTunes, Napster and RealNetworks to force on people inferior versions of digital tracks which already exist. They're literally worth no more than a few cents each, but the music industry is wholesaling them at upwards of 65 cents per track, thus forcing iTunes, etc, to charge $1 and more (depending on the market country) for each download.

This isn't effective marketing. It's sheer greed.

The idea of variable pricing - something less than $1 for old corporate tracks and around $1.30 to $1.50 for new ones - has been mooted but isn't, at this point, going anywhere. But even if it's accepted by the industry and its hangers-on, nothing will change. The vast majority of music lovers simply will not pay through the nose for lo-fi product when they don't have to.

At no time have the Big Four ever tried to treat their customers as reasonable people who'll willingly pay a reasonable price for downloads. Instead, the labels have from the beginning said every one of the 'consumers' upon whom they depend, absolutely, is a potential criminal who has to be forcefully stopped from stealing.

So far, not one of the17,000 or so people singled out from the estimated between 51 and 61 million people who regularly share music with each other in the US has actually appeared in front of a judge or a jury. However, the cartel has been able to use the mainstream media to imply it's successfully "prosecuted" all these men, women and children whom it says are thieves, although nothing has been stolen and no one has been deprived of anything in either a physical or digital sense.

With file sharing, the operative word is "share": no money changes hands.

The labels are also using the media to say file sharing is costing enormous amounts of money in lost sales when actually, it's never been shown that a file shared equals a sale lost and in fact, a number of experts have suggested file sharing amounts to a free, and priceless, form of exposure and publicity for the cartel and its artists.

The Big Four say their warped sue 'em all sales program is working and that as a direct result, people are turning away from the p2p networks in favour of the corporate sites supplied and supported by them.

This isn't even nearly true.

Stay tuned, particularly if you're someone with a site or a blog who can potentially host the fund-raising script.

Also read:-
The 'We're Not Taking Any More' club, September 17, 2005


Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

Other MP3 stories:
For Every 3 iPods, Creative Sells 1 MP3 Player
Ipsos-Reid: Only 2% of Consumers Care About Legal Issues With Downloading Music

 


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