The woman you see pictured to your left is Tanya Anderson, a 31-year old single mother who lives on disability payments for chronic migraines.
She’s also probably the ballsiest woman in America at the moment. RIAA, that association for major music labels has sued tens of thousands of people in the US, and yet most choose not to fight it. Instead, they settle for a few thousand bucks each. This way, they avoid the immense legal costs of going to court.
Not this lady. Not only did she fight the RIAA, she won! She went to court and got the case dismissed. Now she’s going further. She’s suing the RIAA for conspiracy, claiming they use unethical practices and actually snoop through people’s computers.
The RIAA used something called the Settlement Support Center, a tele-organization that called people being threatened and offered them settlements. They would call these people, threaten them, and repeatedly state that all evidence necessary to win was already obtained. That they had “proof” of the illegal activity.
Their primary evidence? IP Addresses. For those less tech-savvy, an IP address is a supposedly unique electronic ID number that your computer will use while online. However, these numbers aren’t entirely unique. Everytime you disconnect and reconnect (say you unplug your modem and plug it in again) you can get a new one. There are lots of ways. So the IP address you used may have been used by someone just a few minutes ago. Also, say you set up a wireless network and forget to secure it (even for a few hours). Anyone could connect to it and use your IP address to download music.
MediaSentry is the primary detective used by the labels. “When MediaSentry sees people swapping music on file-sharing services such as KaZaA, it records their IP addresses and user names. Then it goes to Verizon Communications or another Internet service provider to find out who was using that IP address at the time of the piracy.”
There was no evidence of piracy, even through intense forensic analysis of Anderson’s computer. RIAA claims they dropped the case because they were taking the “high road” and didn’t want to hurt this mother, despite the fact that they at first refused to release the results of the computer testing, and didn’t drop the case until the last possible second.
I’d like to think labels are not going to keep suing their customers. It’s not exactly the way to engender good branding or anything. I completely agree that piracy is not a good thing, and that people should pay for music. But I also think that the labels need to embrace digital distribution and stop clinging to the old ways.