RIAA Gets $2000 From 12 Year Old Girl

This story has been all over the place today.

A 12-year-old girl in New York who was among the first to be sued by the record industry for sharing music over the Internet is off the hook after her mother agreed Tuesday to pay $2,000 to settle the lawsuit, apologizing and admitting that her daughter’s actions violated U.S. copyright laws.

The hurried settlement involving Brianna LaHara, an honors student, was the first announced one day after the Recording Industry Association of America (news – web sites) filed 261 such lawsuits across the country. Lawyers for the RIAA said Brianna’s mother, Sylvia Torres, contacted them early Tuesday to negotiate.

“We understand now that file-sharing the music was illegal,” Torres said in a statement distributed by the recording industry. “You can be sure Brianna won’t be doing it anymore.”

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

The case against Brianna was a potential minefield for the music industry from a public relations standpoint. The family lives in a city housing project on New York’s Upper West Side, and they said they mistakenly believed they were entitled to download music over the Internet because they had paid $29.99 for software that gives them access to online file-sharing services.

Even in the hours before the settlement was announced, Brianna was emerging as an example of what critics said was overzealous enforcement by the powerful music industry.

I’m sure this family will buy many CDs in the future.

Contrary to what many songwriters think, your songs are only temporarily yours. If I write a song the government grants me a period of time where I have control over how that song is used, distributed, and enjoyed. In 1790 that amount of time was 14 years with the option to extend it another 14 years, which is similar to our current duration for patents on inventions (17 years). After the term was up your control was lifted and anyone could record, play, or distribute the song without your permission and certainly without payinig you. Without the 28 years it would be difficult to make money on a song, which would provide less incentive to write new songs. The 28 year copyright allowed you some time to be the only source of the song and hopefully let you put some money into your pocket. After 28 years you’d have to come up with something new to keep eating. We as a society have an interest in promoting new artistic works from being created. If the copyright duration is too short, artists will starve. If the duration is too long, art will stagnate.

The current copyright duration is more than 70 years following the author’s death. How does that promote creativity?

Even if you agree that current copyrights are fine, the changes needed to ensure no one shares copyrighted works would be so expense, intrusive, and full of false accusations that it is simply not worth doing.

So if you want to support non-RIAA companies, check out this site.