One Step Forward, Two Back for RIAA?

Dennis Faas's picture

A few days ago, I reported on the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) victory over Jammie Thomas, a single mother and the first defendant in a crusade against a parade of supposed copyright offenders. As expected, many anti-copyright groups are now emerging to support Thomas in the fight against the increasingly despised RIAA.

For those that missed it, Thomas was recently found guilty of "making available" about 24 songs (not even two full records) on Kazaa's now defunct illegal network. That essentially made the songs free and clear to be downloaded illegally by others, and that's why a judge has ordered Thomas to pay about $222,000 in compensation.

CNET's local attorney and blogger Nancy Prager argues that although the victory is fine and dandy for the RIAA and to some extent justifies their great crusade in getting these cases into court, the record-label defense body may have lost in a much larger arena: public opinion. (Source:

Evidence of that is now beginning to show. Students accused of downloading music are now banding together to defend themselves against the RIAA, unlike Thomas who remained solo. The best example of this new trend may be the case of seven North Carolina college kids, who have fused their defenses under local attorneys Robertson, Medlin & Blocker. The strategy is expected to make for a stronger defense, as the students hope to "squash the subpoena served...and to dismiss the case altogether due to improper joinder." (Source:

However, it's not just the students being prosecuted who have the power to take down the RIAA. Since university campuses still pose the largest threat to music copyright, cases like the Thomas one may just frustrate and anger users there more than ever. That judgment is more likely to steer students onto Bit Torrent than into a music store.

Further complicating matters for RIAA is the murkiness of the Torrent waters. It remains unknown whether the copyright body will have any right to prosecute users of sites like The Pirate Bay or

In the end, the RIAA and the music industry at large have missed their chance to educate the public on the costs of copyright infringement. Instead, both may have angered downloaders more, as web aficionados continue to throw their support behind a single mother martyr.

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