RIAA Settles First Lawsuit Against 12-Year-Old Brianna LaHara

If you’re one of the remaining 260 defendants targeted in lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for music piracy on the Internet, don’t count on being bailed out of your jam by P2P United.

The group, which represents major file-sharing sites on the Net, has pledged to pay the US$2,000 settlement in the case of a 12-year-old Manhattan honor student targeted by the RIAA for illegally downloading music.

But the group’s beneficence will be limited to this single episode, according to P2P United executive director Adam Eisgrau.

“We have no shame in both being very sincere in our concern over this particular family’s circumstances, but also because of the attention that it’s gotten, we felt that it was an ideal opportunity to call the world’s attention to just how legally suspect and morally reprehensible this terror campaign is,” Eisgrau told TechNewsWorld.

RIAA’s Terror Campaign

The so-called terror campaign is Eisgrau’s characterization of the RIAA announcement on Monday that it had filed 261 lawsuits against “major offenders” illegally distributing substantial numbers of copyrighted music files on peer-to-peer networks.

The day following the move, the RIAA announced it had settled the first case for $2,000. That case involved a curly-haired 12-year-old named Brianna LaHara who had just started the seventh grade at St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Manhattan on the day the lawsuits were filed.

Although LaHara’s mother, Sylvia Torres, vowed to fight the lawsuit when initially contacted by reporters about the action, she adopted a more contrite posture in the statement issued by the RIAA announcing the settlement.


“We understand now that file-sharing the music was illegal,” Torres said in the statement. “You can be sure Brianna won’t be doing it any more.”

“I am sorry for what I have done,” LaHara added. “I love music and don’t want to hurt the artists I love.”

While $2,000 is no small sum for a single mother living in public housing like Torres, the penalty could have been a lot worse — $150,000 per pirated song, according to the RIAA.

“We’re trying to send a strong message that you are not anonymous when you participate in peer-to-peer file sharing and that the illegal distribution of copyrighted music has consequences,” Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

“And as this case illustrates, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing on their computers.”

Stalin Not Dead

That strong message has been met with strong language from some quarters. “I thought Joe McCarthy and Joe Stalin were dead, but obviously they’re alive and well and running the RIAA,” Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, a peer-to-peer Internet service, told TechNewsWorld.

Earlier this year, the RIAA tried to press its “you are not anonymous” message on music pirates through an instant-messaging campaign. But, apparently, that strategy wasn’t yielding results.

“We tried to raise awareness through instant messaging, but people became aware a lot faster when we began gathering evidence for subpoenas,” observed Thomas F. Lee, president of the American Federation of Musicians in New York City. “Now that this has happened, it’s going to raise the awareness level even higher, and it’s just unfortunate that these actions have to be taken to get the attention of the people that are doing this.

“Electronic shoplifting can’t be condoned in any fashion,” he added. “This was an expensive lesson for the parents of this child.”

Lessons for RIAA

But it might be an expensive lesson for the recording industry, too, according to P2P United’s Eisgrau. “There is precious little time before the public washes its hands of the industry entirely,” he said.

“The public will begin to seek music actively, using technology, from virtually any and all sources other than what is perceived to be the official industry,” Eisgrau added.


  • May I ask why was Brianna got sued but not her mother? Because RIAA stated that the defendant in each lawsuit is the person who paid the household internet, since the online services is paid by Brianna’s mother, why don’t her mother got sued but her?

  • I received paperwork in the mail, telling me that I AM being sued. I did not realize that loading music was not appropriate. I have bought most of the casettes <yes, I AM a little older than some>, back in the day, and when I saw the songs on grokster, I wanted to hear them once again. In no way was I going to create cd’s to sell, or anything of the sort. I AM scared <hence, the user name> and do not know what to do. Does anyone have any advice? I took Grokster off the computer as soon as I received the first paper with legal jargon in it. Help.
    Thank you for your time.

  • I posted this in another forum in response to a simillar topic but I think it applies here as well.
    Record companies are getting desperate. The big bad Internet is killing their sales, and apart from going after the fans they can’t do much else. Kazaa has protected itself very well, unlike Napster, but the fact that Kazaa has squashed all lawsuits directed against it, also unlike Napster, should be giving record executives nightmares.
    Because Kazaa and its ilk are just the second generation. The next generation will have legal protection for those who make it, as well as those who use it. And record companies will have to spend even more money in legal battles, and lose even more money from deficient record sales. Why? Simple:Music over the Internet is the wave of the future, and record companies are extinct, whether they realize it or not. Many bands have realized this, and are already joining this revolution in one form or another. And those that aren’t are either too comfortable with the status quo, or fear the potential backlash if they decide to break out on their own.
    The internet is doing what we’ve all dreamed of doing in any business related enterprise – eliminating the middle man. The Internet takes record companies out of the equation, and makes selling an album as simple as making a web site and running ads on some friendly sites. And it takes the manufacturing and presentation of the album a thing of the past. And record companies are scared sh*tless of this because they realize that if this takes off (it already has on the illegal side) it makes them extinct.
    Bands need to realize that the internet can be their friend if they make it so. Free file sharing services and such will always exist and will always put a dent in record sales. But how big a dent is always dependent on how agrresively said service is marketed and how competitive the legal alternative is.
    Kazaa right now, as an entity, is pretty much bulletproof barring of course any natural or media disasters. But if bands and artists had gotten together and decided to offer a united front, and make a service like a music store where you can find everything for a reasonable price, things wouldn’t be so bad (for artists anyway). The problem now is that everyone is going to go to a different service to market their own music, and it’s kind of like trying to buy stuff directly from the record company instead of going to a store.
    Kazaa is one program that offers simple (albeit illegal) access to tons of music, all in one place. The only way to combat that is to offer a wider catalog of music with higher quality options, and to not start doing all these fancy file format maneuvers just to protect copyrights. People pay for the MP3, and they get full rights to listen to it any time and burn it on whatever CD they please, in any way they please. Advanced protection schemes for files will only turn away users that want the freedom of MP3s but are willing to pay for it to stay on the right side of the law.
    This of course opens the MP3s up to the same issues as normal CDs – making copies for your friends, making them MP3s and distributing compilations, etc. but that’s a small price to pay for having a service as competitive as Kazaa, without the looking over your legal shoulder every time you log on.

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