By Richard Menta 12/21/06
The good news for Patti Santangelo, the single mother of five who was sued by the record industry for file sharing, is that the industry has dropped their case against her. The bad news is that the same industry is going to continue the case aginst her children.
As lawyer Ray Beckerman - who at one point represented Patti - posted on his site Recording Industry vs the People the RIAA submitted its motion "without prejudice" to dismiss its case against her. As Beckerman points out "without prejudice" means they can sue her again for the same reason down the road if they choose to. Meanwhile, the case against Santangelo's 16-year old daughter and 20-year old son will continue.
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Santangelo is just one of thousands of individuals accused of copyright infringement by the record lobby. Most of those accused chose to pay a $2,000 to $5,000 settlement with the industry simply because it was far cheaper than going to court. Santangelo, like Brittany Chan and Marie Lindor and Tanya Andersen, fought back against the charges. The financial burden on them has been high, especially since court costs are used as a tactic by the RIAA to dissuade dissension.
The change of tactics in the Santangelo case is very similar to the one against Chan. The industry sued Britanny's mother first, but finding the US District Court in Michigan less than supportive it changed direction and sued the daughter. The court later dismissed the case against teenager after the group failed to supply information requested by the court.
When Patti refused to break the industry changed its strategy and on November 1st Electra v. Santangelo became a suit against daughter and son. The industry says that the children implicated themselves in depositions, which Santangelo lawyer Jordan Glass denies. The industry's hope is that the family, having already exhausted their finances defending the mother, will settle. These finances include roughly $15,000 generated by the Fight Goliath campaign that was set up to help offset the family's court costs.
As the industry continues these court dramas against families one thing has remained clear, file sharing continues to increase. Furthermore, the sales of physical media continues to drop. Most of the tens-of-millions of Americans who trade in music and video online have long ago made up their minds regarding the moral and ethical issues of file sharing. On the blogoshphere, court cases like Electra v. Santangelo only generate sympathy for those sued.
On a business level it is clear that the record industry has not achieved its goals with these lawsuits. RIAA leaders insist it will eventually, but one of the most difficult things to measure is goodwill. When people like Patti Santangelo appear on the Early Show on CBS and Today Show on NBC it doesn't take an MBA to see that such legal strategies can have an opposite effect. Evidence suggests it already has.
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