Interview with the RIAA Mom

By Jon Newton 9/6/05

Patricia Santangelo is the New York mother who's becoming celebrated as the first of approaching 14,000 ordinary men, women and children to stand up to the Big Music cartel's terror tactics as it tries to literally sue people into becoming buyers of its discredited products.

Brian Robertson, ex-president of the cartel-owned CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association), once reported the multi-billion-dollar music industry is being "devastated" by file sharers and file sharing. And yet, the number of overall units of music formats shipped to retail distribution channels increased by 4.4% year-over-year, a 3.3% increase in retail value compared to 2003, states the cartel's RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

Jon Newton

The number of CDs shipped in the US last year rose 5.3%, a 2.7% increase in value compared to the previous year and, “The DVD music video format continues to experience extraordinary growth, with a 66 percent increase in music shipments from record companies to retail outlets and special markets distribution channels and a 51.8 percent increase in value (list price)," it states unequivocally.

Lately, there's been a tendency for people and organizations to cozy up to the corporations. However, the tide is turning as more and more individuals around the world log on to discover they now have voices which are being heard above the self-serving clamour set up by the entertainment and software cartels. 'Consumers' have become customers and clients again, instead of the mindless cash-cows which have made the Big Four so wealthy.

p2pnet recently carried a Q&A with Santangelo's lawyer, Ray Beckerman. He told us, "We will fight to the end ... The RIAA will give up long before we do, because sooner or later it will dawn upon them that their attorneys are taking them for a ride."

In a second p2pnet Q&A, Santangelo says she, too, is here for the duration.

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Hi, Mrs Santangelo. Before we get down to the questions, thanks very much for talking to p2pnet. You're becoming a heroine online and offline and your stand against the RIAA and the Big Four record label cartel that owns it will make a huge difference both to the way the Net functions, and how p2p is perceived by people who may not have come across it before.

p2pnet: So, you're the first of close to 14,000 people who's decided you're not going to be pushed around by the record labels. How do you feel about that now, particularly in light of all the media attention your case is drawing?

Santangelo: The attention was quite a surprise. I had no idea when I chose to hire Mr Beckerman that I was the first to say No to a settlement.

p2pnet: Are your family and friends behind you?

Santangelo: Yes. Everyone has been very supportive.

p2pnet: You're reported to have said you've never used Kazaa and that, further, you didn't even know what it was before the RIAA turned up on your door-step. It's also been said the software belongs to a friend of your children's and was installed without you, or anyone else in your family, knowing about it. Is that an accurate summary?

Santangelo: That's correct. I had no idea what Kazaa was or what it was used for. I think of software as an actual disk that you hold in your hand so I'm not sure about that or how it was installed. The screen-name that was used for the Kazaa account did not belong to any of my children is what I said. I never said that one of my children did not know this person had a Kazaa account.

p2pnet: Even though you hadn't heard of Kazaa, did you know what an mp3 was? And had you come across the term p2p (peer-to-peer) before?

Santangelo: No. I had no idea what either a p2p or an mp3 was.

p2pnet: Had you heard about file sharing before you caught Big Music's eye? And if you had, what were your impressions of it?

Santangelo: I had never heard of file sharing.

p2pnet: We understand the RIAA's settlement centre told you the labels wanted $7,500 out of you. Can you recall what was said? And what was the manner of the person who spoke with you?

Santangelo: That was the original amount that was asked of me. However, it was reduced to $3,750, if I remember correctly. At the time I was called, there was no music on my computer because it was only three or four months old. I'd recently moved and they had my old address and the computer we had at that location had been destroyed by a virus. So when I was told that I needed to sign some type of statement saying that myself, or someone in my home, was responsible for this "crime," I had nothing to actually look at except a court paper with an IP address. There was no file sharing company or account at that time. I couldn't accept that.

p2pnet: What was your first reaction?

Santangelo: Fear, like most people, I suspect.

p2pnet: When did you decide you weren't going to put up with the bullying, how did you go about finding legal representation?

Santangelo: I stopped answering my phone for a little while and started to research what it was all about because, like I said before, I had no idea. I decided after reading about the Jane Does that this was so very wrong and that I'd let them name me with their lawsuit.

Unfortunately, finding an attorney to handle this was not so easy. I made a lot of phone calls and spoke to friends and came up empty. That's why I appeared in court in May alone. The judge told me to try and find an attorney. I started looking online and found a website called the Electronic Frontier Foundation. There was a link for lawyers and that is how I finally found Mr. Beckerman.

[NOTE: "I've never had a situation like this before, where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side," said US district judge Nancy Gertner in Boston a little more than a year ago. And US District Judge Colleen McMahon, who’s already had a “glimpse of the case," told the cartel's lawyers in reference to the Pay Us Or Else intimidation tactic that the settlement center was no longer to be involved and that she'd, "love to see a mom fighting one of these" - Ed]

p2pnet: Your children's friend is apparently named on the subpoena. That looks a little like the cartel is trying to go to the well twice. Do you know if he or she has been asked to settle, and if so, for how much and what is he/she going to do?

Santangelo: I know nothing about anyone besides myself being named on a subpoena, sorry.

p2pnet: Have you personally heard from the RIAA again since this all began?

Santangelo: I've heard from them once since I went to court in May. It wasn't really the RIAA but the settlement center representing them and I explained to them what Judge McMahon had said in court about me finding an attorney and that I would not be settling with them.

p2pnet: You've already had Pay Us Or Else threats leveled at you. If you lose this case, you could end up facing a lot more than $7,500. What's your reaction to that?

Santangelo: Right now I'm surviving on pure faith that these cases against random IP addresses are wrong and that's all I can think about right now.

p2pnet: If you triumph, and we're sure you will, the Big Four record labels will be in an extremely dangerous position. Their entire terror campaign will collapse around their ears. They've already abandoned several cases for various reasons. Suppose they decide it's not worth risking that you'll win and they decide to drop their charges against you? What then?

Santangelo: Honestly, that would be a relief. But it solves nothing if they can continue doing the same thing to other people like me. I didn't know I was the first person to take it this far. Since hiring Mr Beckerman I've learned a lot, and realize that this isn't just about my case: it's about the legal rights of all the people who are being unfairly sued.

p2pnet: Assuming your case ends up in court, how far are you willing to go?

Santangelo: I'm willing to take it as far as I have to to prevent other innocent people being dragged into frivolous lawsuits. It's wrong.

p2pnet: The record companies say file sharers are devastating them? Does that seem to be a reasonable proposition?

Santangelo: I have three teenage children who love music and I think that's a great thing. I can't count the amount of concert tickets and cds that I've purchased over the past few years, and I still have two younger ones who are showing the same love for music. I find it hard to believe that file sharing could impact record companies to the point of devastation. There are some people, apparently, who copy and sell CDs, and that is piracy and they are the ones that need to be stopped. That's just wrong.

p2pnet: Is there anything you'd like to say to other people who, like you, are being pilloried by Big Music?

Santangelo: Don't let your fear of these massive companies allow you to deny your belief in your own innocence. Paying these settlements is an admission of guilt. If you're not guilty of violating the law, don't pay.

p2pnet: And finally, when will you open an e-payment account so people can start helping with your defense fund : ) ?

Santangelo: I've been very stressed about how I'll handle paying for my defense. My only relief from this stress has been the amount of supportive people from all over the country who have offered their help. It's amazing! I'm looking into the best way to set up a defense fund that will help me continue the legal proceedings and to stop this from ever happening to another innocent person.

After researching this Kazaa network I realized that if everyone who ever did share a file would donate $1 that would be more than enough to put an end to the RIAA terror campaign.


Jon Newton is the editor of 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.


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