A couple of weeks ago, for some odd reason, a bunch of blogs started reporting that Patricia Santangelo's fight against the RIAA represented the first person to fight back against an RIAA lawsuit. That's clearly false. We've linked to a number of such suits -- though most eventually end up being settled quietly. However, in one case where the woman lost the case and appealed, the federal appeals court has shot down her appeal and told her to pay $22,500. From the description of the case it sounds like the court made the right decision, actually. The woman's defense was that she was using downloading to "sample" before buying. Not only is that not actually a defense under the law, but it misses the point of what she was being sued for. The RIAA suits are all about sharing music, not downloading it. So the problem isn't (so much) that she downloaded songs, but that she left them in a sharable folder for others to download. Also, obviously, we're no fans of the RIAA's tactics (have you noticed?) -- especially their attempt to call infringement "theft" when even the Supreme Court says it's clearly different. However, the opening on this article makes it sound like the judges did say she was like a shoplifter, a charger her lawyer rightly calls "inflammatory." However, from the details, it appears that's not what the court was actually saying. They simply used a shoplifting example to discredit her (bizarre) claim that she shouldn't be found guilty because she shared less than others. In that situation, the court is absolutely right. That's not a defense at all. It's really too bad that this is one of the cases that went to court (and is now getting publicity), because it puts the focus on all the wrong issues and gives the RIAA another story to mis-use in talking about their fight against file sharing. While we believe the RIAA's strategy is strategically stupid, doing much more harm than good, that doesn't mean they don't have legal grounds to do what they're doing in many of these cases. The people who decide to fight back need to have legitimate arguments -- and this woman didn't appear to do so.
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