Few of the RIAA's estimated 20,000 lawsuits against file traders have seen the inside of a courtroom, as the majority of users, fearing legal fees or a loss, settle out of court. The RIAA of course anticipates this, so many of their cases consist of little more than an IP address, which as we've discussed frequently isn't specific evidence
of individual guilt. This half-assed discovery process has led to a number of suits being dropped, and it caused the RIAA some PR grief last summer when they decided to sue a PC-illiterate Long Island mother of five for sharing music. Already $24,000 in debt before her trial even began, Patricia Santangelo became an Internet celebrity of sorts by deciding to actually fight the record industry. Her story gained traction when she lost her first lawyer and proclaimed she'd fight the RIAA by herself
-- leading to a flurry of legal donations from RIAA-loathing groups and individuals the world over. Last summer we wondered if the RIAA would eventually cut their losses in this case and run
; instead they began investigating her children
, ultimately filing suit against the kids after getting the daughter and a neighbor to admit to using Kazaa under oath.
Today the RIAA dropped the lawsuit against Santangelo herself
, though Santangelo's first lawyer Ray Beckerman confirms for us the suit against her children now moves forward -- after her first battle drained the family coffers. Obviously forcing cash-strapped American moms to pony up tens of thousands of dollars to force the industry to do their homework is absurd, and as we've noted there's no real punishment
for when the RIAA screws up. Even better, the RIAA is trying to have this case dropped in such a way that they won't be held financially liable (despite basically admitting they sued the wrong person), and so the door's held open in case they want to sue Santangelo for the same thing down the road. Of course it's important to remember it's perfectly fine to share music illegally if your father is a wealthy music industry executive