Recording Industry Withdraws Music Sharing Lawsuit
San Francisco - Seven major record labels dismissed charges
of copyright infringement leveled at a 65-year-old educator,
artist, and grandmother from Massachusetts late last week.
Sarah Ward was one of 261 individuals sued by the recording
industry for allegedly sharing copyrighted music using
peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing systems.
What was the problem? The recording industry charged Ward
with sharing songs using the KaZaA filesharing software, but
she owns only a Macintosh computer which cannot run KaZaA.
Ward strongly denied using any filesharing software and
explained that she listens to classical and folk music, not
the rock and hip hop music referred to in the complaint.
The seven record labels sued Ward solely on the basis of
"screen shots" from the KaZaA network and information
obtained from a controversial subpoena issued to Comcast,
Ward's Internet service provider, under the provisions of
the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Comcast did not
inform Ward before releasing her identity to the recording
industry, a step that might have allowed her to clear her
name without the need for a lawsuit.
"The Sarah Ward case demonstrates the reckless, frightening
nature of the recording industry's campaign against ordinary
Americans," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal
Director Cindy Cohn. "These record labels violated her
privacy, sued her for potentially millions of dollars, and
forced her to hire a defense lawyer before finally
recognizing that they had no case against her."
"I'm particularly concerned about others who may not have
the support I did to defend myself and clear my name,"
commented Ward. "And of course as a grandmother and teacher,
I worry about a world where people don't feel the need to
apologize or make amends when they make a mistake."
"The recording industry will continue to catch -- and
terrify -- innocent people like Sarah Ward in its dragnet
as long as these lawsuits continue," added EFF Staff
Attorney Jason Schultz. "What we need is a global solution
that legalizes file-sharing, gets artists paid, and halts
the recording industry's litigation machine."
Although Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
spokesperson Jonathan Lamy told Associated Press that the
group is targeting only "proven, egregious offenders,"
RIAA President Cary Sherman admitted to CNET that the
recording industry makes no attempt to contact informally
the targets of the lawsuits before suing them.
The seven record labels that sued Ward are Sony Music
Entertainment, Inc, BMG Music, Virgin Records America, Inc.,
Interscope Records, Atlantic Recording Corporation, Warner
Brothers Records, Inc., and Arista Records, Inc.
- New York Times story
about Sarah Ward (requires free registration)
How Not To Get Sued By The RIAA
- EFF Let the Music Play
RIAA v. The People
Boston Globe story about Sarah Ward
RIAA goes after "proven, egregious offenders"
Recording industry didn't try to contact those it sued
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation