RIAA Countersued, Plot Thickens

    February 1, 2007

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been relentless in its pursuit of those individuals found to be taking part in peer-to-peer music sharing. Numerous lawsuits have been filed by the RIAA, most of which are settled out of court for an arbitrary fee.

One defendant, however, is fighting back against the RIAA’s legal attacks.

Sixteen-year-old Robert Santangelo is being sued by the RIAA for online music piracy that allegedly occurred as far back as five years ago. Santangelo filed a countersuit against the RIAA on Tuesday, accusing the organization of violating antitrust laws, conspiring to defraud the courts and making extortionate threats.

Santagelo and his lawyer, Jordan Glass, filed a total of 32 counter-complaints against the RIAA.

The Recording Industry Association of America issued a statement in an AP article saying, “The record industry has suffered enormously due to piracy. That includes thousands of layoffs. We must protect our rights. Nothing in a filing full of recycled charges that have gone nowhere in the past changes that fact.”

According to comScore, however, online music sales via iTunes are soaring and show no sign of slowing down. The record labels all get a piece of the revenues generated by iTunes, so I’m wondering where this so-called “suffering” that the RIAA claims to be experiencing is coming from?

Perhaps the RIAA’s true fear is that online music distribution could potentially nullify the stranglehold that the major record labels have exerted over revenues generated by the artists they have claimed to “represent” for so long.

Former Hole lead vocalist Courtney Love bemoans the struggle of many an artist when it comes to the major record labels:

When you look at the legal line on a CD, it says copyright 1976 Atlantic Records or copyright 1996 RCA Records. When you look at a book, though, it’ll say something like copyright 1999 Susan Faludi, or David Foster Wallace. Authors own their books and license them to publishers. When the contract runs out, writers gets their books back. But record companies own our copyrights forever.

The system’s set up so almost nobody gets paid.

The four major record corporations fund the RIAA. These companies are rich and obviously well-represented. Recording artists and musicians don’t really have the money to compete. The 273,000 working musicians in America make about $30,000 a year. Only 15 percent of American Federation of Musicians members work steadily in music.

Distribution has long been the major obstacle for aspiring artists longing to be heard, and the vehicle that the RIAA has employed to keep those same artists under the collective thumb of the music industry at large.

To protect its distribution mediums, the RIAA has vehemently pursued litigation against alleged pirates, a strategy that has been met with little resistance until now.

Santangelo and his attorney claim that the RIAA’s legal tactics are a method of extortion and that the organization is defrauding the court by making use of the legal system to further its alleged monopolistic agenda.

The RIAA originally sued Santangelo’s mother, but those charges were dropped after it was discovered that she barely knew how to operate a computer, much less mastermind a peer-to-peer file sharing service.

This will be a pivotal case for the future of peer-to-peer networks, and definitely one worth keeping an eye on.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.