Litigation Speaks: in the Wild World of File-Sharing

Dennis Faas's picture

If you illegally download music via a file-sharing program, you better watch out -- music companies may file a lawsuit against you. Or at least that's what they want you to think.

Earlier this week, the case on Patti Santangelo was dropped and refiled, this time implicating Santangelo's two children. Santangelo was sued -- along with many others -- as part of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)'s campaign to stop the illegal pirating of online music.

Unlike the others, however, Santangelo refused to settle, instead choosing to go through costly litigation. (Source:

In the case Electra versus Perez, Judge Ann Aiken ruled that making files available for download on a P2P program such as Kazaa is enough to prove infringement. However, since the case was dismissed without prejudice (meaning that it can be refiled in the future), the judge's ruling is unlikely to set precedent for future rulings. (Source:

In another case, UMG versus Lindor, a federal judge steered things in another direction, ruling that the onus is on the music company to prove file sharing. Judge David G. Trager said that when the case goes to trial, "plaintiffs will have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant did indeed infringe plaintiff's copyrights by convincing the fact-finder, based on the evidence plaintiffs have gathered, that defendant actually shared sound files belonging to plaintiffs."

In other words, score one for the everyman. (Source:

The UMG versus Lindor case is expected to go to court next year. Since no file-sharing cases have actually made it to trial, judges' rulings are hard to predict and legal precedent remains unknown. If and when a case does make it to court, perhaps some of the ambiguity of file-sharing can be cleared up.

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