It all started in 2003, when the Recording Industry Association of America sued 261 music fans for copyright infringement. Since then it has littered the nation with lawsuits that have unreasonably punished users. Recently, an inequitable court decision awarded the association the full $1.92 million, or $80,000 per song , it was seeking from a Minnesota woman for alleged copyright infringement of 24 songs. This is one of the many cases that demonstrate how the RIAA has succeeded in using the average American as a scapegoat for the plummet of its industry.
Yes, copyright infringement of music and movies is wrong. The Movie Picture Association of America reported a $6.1 billion loss in 2005 alone due to piracy, and the RIAA reports $12.5 billion in losses.
But that is not the argument. The pressing issue is the purpose of the RIAA’s lawsuits — and that they accomplish little. In a fact sheet on its Web site, the association stated its “broad-based user litigation program,” which it stated was “designed to educate fans about the law, the consequences of breaking the law … Like any tough decision, there are trade-offs.” In other words, the RIAA concentrated its righteousness toward a select few Americans to prove a point. It ruined lives in the process. Countless Americans settled for huge prices that were designed to make headlines — not fairly punish users.
As stated by University of California- Berkley Law School professors Pamela Samuelson and Tara Wheatland, the legal system has failed to “develop a jurisprudence to guide decision-making” in what is fair and just in awarding damages in copyright cases. Until a fairer legal structure is developed, organizations such as the RIAA will continue to take the livelihoods of thousands of Americans.