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RIAA, KaZaA user settle 3-year-old lawsuit for $6,050


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Posted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 08:50
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One of the longest running file-sharing lawsuits has come to a close, as Denise Barker and the RIAA have mutually agreed to settle a three-year-old lawsuit for $6,050. Barker has been represented by Ray Beckerman, known for his Recording Industry vs The People blog, who used the case as a platform to attack the foundations upon which the RIAA has built its legal campaign.

Barker had admitted to using KaZaA, but argued that the statutory damages sought by the RIAA were unconstitutionally excessive with damages. Instead, Beckerman argued that damages should be capped at no more than $3.50 per song?five times the amount the record labels would have made from a legal download. Barker also accused the RIAA of using an unlicensed private investigator (MediaSentry)?a charge which has been cropping up with some regularity in other contested cases?and was one of the first cases to argue that simply making a file available over a P2P network was not copyright infringement as defined by the Copyright Act.

The last argument didn't go over very well with Judge Kenneth M. Karas, who in March agreed with the RIAA's position that making music available over KaZaA was indeed infringement. Subsequent rulings have been far less favorable to the RIAA, and the Jammie Thomas case appears headed for retrial over this very issue.

With discovery over and a trial looming, Barker decided it was better to settle and "pass the torch to others" in the fight against the RIAA, Beckerman told Ars. The case had been a part of her life for three years, and she faced the possibility of a long and even more expensive fight. "None of these defenses have been litigated before, so it would have taken a lot of work, and a lot of time," Beckerman said. Barker will make monthly payments of $110 per month for the next four-and-a-half years, is required to delete all unlawfully acquired music from her hard drive, and is permanently enjoined against infringing the record labels' copyrights.

Stretching out the litigation proved costly to both parties. Barker could have settled the case for $4,000 once she received one of the RIAA's infamous prelitigation settlement letters. Instead, she's paying $6,050 plus attorneys' fees?a bit over $750 per song. And while the settlement can be construed as a victory for the RIAA, it's something of a pyrrhic one as the organization certainly had to pay far, far more than that in attorneys' fees, underscoring the RIAA's assertion that its legal campaign against P2P users is a money-losing proposition.

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