Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

RIAA Lawsuits Hit 71 Year Old Grandfather, 12 Year Old Girl

from the who's-responsible? dept

No surprise here, but among the 261 lawsuits filed by the RIAA was one against a 71-year-old grandfather who says that his grandkids have used his computer when they come to visit and that they've even explained this to the RIAA. So, here's the question: who is legally responsible? If the RIAA can't prove who was at the computer allowing the copyright infringement, is it really the legal responsibility of the owner of a computer to know everything that is happening on the machine? If so, wouldn't that mean, legally, that the owner of the computer would also be responsible for any viruses or trojan programs acting on his or her computer? Based on this example, I would think that the owner of the computer should only be responsible for actions that they themselves did on the computer - and that the burden of proof would need to be on the RIAA to show that it was that specific individual violating their copyrights. Of course, I'm not a lawyer, so hopefully, we'll hear from someone who understands the law a bit better. Update: Here's another story of someone who was sued who says he's quite angry at (a) Comcast for giving out his personal info and (b) the music industry for suing him over something that he (and his sons) were not profiting off of ("just because we are downloading music doesn't mean we are making millions of copies"). He plans to boycott all music industry products moving forward. Way to go, RIAA, you just turned a former customer who found music through file sharing into a lifelong hater of the industry who will no longer buy your products. That's okay, they'll probably now get millions of dollars out of him in a legal settlement that will make it impossible for his kids to go to college. Update 2: At the other end of the age spectrum comes this story of a 12-year-old girl who's being sued. Her mother claims that she "paid" $30 for Kazaa (suggesting she got scammed) and assumed that that made it legal. She also mocks the idea that her 12-year-old downloading a nursery rhyme and some TV show theme songs is a real "threat" to the music industry.

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  1. identicon
    Ed Myers, 9 Sep 2003 @ 4:32am

    RIAA lawsuits

    I'm not one of those targeted by the RIAA, at least not that I know. Considering their shotgun response to file sharing who knows. I'm writing to say that I now hate the RIAA and will NEVER buy another CD or casette or whatever. The radio is still free. It's time these fatcats learn that they are failing because they aren't providing consumers with what they want at a reasonable price. I say boycott the b@st@rds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Concerned citizen, 9 Sep 2003 @ 6:09am

    Support the RIAA!

    No one ever changed a law by ignoring it. I think they should prosecute these people to the full extent of the law. Then people will see how ridiculous the current state of copyright law is. As long as the law is loosely enforced, things will never change because the general public will not perceive the problem. Let them sue a few sympathetic defendants and let's open up the debate. Some of us have been trying for years to explain this only to be pooh-pooh-ed away as kooks. People who just disregard the law are holding back the inevitable collapse of the current system. I think content creators and the casual copiers richly deserve each other, so SUE AWAY!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymoose Cow-ard, 9 Sep 2003 @ 7:17am

    IANAL, but...

    I am not a lawyer, but, it seems to me if state and federal law enforcement agencies can confiscate your vehicle if you have passengers who are carrying drugs, then the same rules should apply to any other equipment that you own.

    If someone is using YOUR computer to commit a crime, then YOU are (at least partially) responsible for that crime.

    Don't let someone in your vehicle if they might be carrying drugs and don't let someone use your computer if they might be breaking the law. If you do, at least admit to the fact that you are partially responsible for the actions that occur.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    jimf, 9 Sep 2003 @ 7:34am

    Re: RIAA lawsuits

    Personally, I avoid all RIAA CDs...I only buy CDs from bands directly or from non-RIAA independents.

    I used to buy RIAA CDs, but will not buy another till they reverse their ridiculous stand on downloading music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2003 @ 7:40am

    Re: IANAL, but...

    Apples and oranges, I believe.

    In the car case I the seizures are in compliance with specific laws passed that create the operator-passenger liability connection. There's no actual law on the books making a similar connection of liability between the owner of a PC (which is more like a household appliance than a registered vehicle) and the actions of its operators.

    As much as the RIAA would like us to believe this is true, it is not, since we have to distinguish between the liability of tool-owners and tool-users when misuse occurs.

    On a practical note, these legal moves are a wake-up call that even home PCs should be set up to use individual accounts, so data and activities can be associated with the user. This is just a good practice anyway with shared equipment, if only to hedge against accidental erasures, etc.

    authorize a car is registered to an owner/operator, understood to be traceable anywhere by virtue of the license plates, and

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2003 @ 7:43am

    Re: IANAL, but...

    You can't seriously be using a pathetically heavy-handed law to justify a similarly heavy-handed approach in another sector. Please tell me you're not that painfully stupid.

    "They do it over here so it must be okay" is nothing more than an indication of another prudish, overly punitive law that needs to be examined and thrown out for the joke that it is.

    Your country needs some more of the light of day that dispels the fog of lies and corruption. (Mine too, but the problems in your legal system are the ones that are exposed by your message today and the ones that you're trying to push on the rest of the world)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Stilleon, 9 Sep 2003 @ 8:10am

    Ignorance of the law...

    The guy with the kids who settle with te RIAA is mad because he didn't know it was illegal. Ignrance of the law, the saying gos, is no excuse. Seems to me he should sue Sharman Networks for providing a service to their consumers without properly warning them of the possibility of breakng the law. Sure, is in the User license, but no one reads those and legally, because of the way they are presented, can be protested.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Mark F, 9 Sep 2003 @ 8:20am

    $ for Kazaa

    A comment on Slashdot suggested that the money the 12 year old girl paid was for the ad/spyware free version of Kazaa.

    Maybe the RIAA should drop this suit and sue Kazaa on her behalf for misleading her into thinking that the Kazaa service was legal in distributing RIAA copyrighted music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    David, 9 Sep 2003 @ 8:36am

    Boycott 'em

    Are people breaking the law? Yes. Does this justify bullying twelve-year olds and grandfathers? Does this justify suing the writer of a campus search engine and stealing his life savings? Screw 'em, kick the bully in the balls. Boycott the RIAA!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bobby, 9 Sep 2003 @ 11:30am

    Re: $ for Kazaa

    $30 for Kazaa? That's a ripoff! I only paid $25.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    WillTheyTrackMe?, 9 Sep 2003 @ 10:58pm

    Accessing Online Accounts

    I have to admit, I'm a little unclear as to how the RIAA can gain access to an individual's online account without having proof of reasonable suspicion (i.e. having previously investigated the individual). Otherwise this seems to be an invasion of privacy, which at the very least seems morally against our values as Americans and may well be illegal in itself. Are the RIAA's actions illegal?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2003 @ 9:49am

    Re: $ for Kazaa

    who the hell pays for Kazaa ?
    Its FREE at !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Zider, 12 Sep 2003 @ 7:16am

    Re: $ for Kazaa

    Who the hell uses KaZaa? Most users there are on crappy modems and hardly ever lets you finish downloads. A good DC-hub is what you need. :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2003 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Support the RIAA!

    Shut up you have no clue what you are talking about. You do not need to sue people to get a point across, there are ways to open a debate without hurting others. I hope they come after you a$$ h*le.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2006 @ 8:29am

    Re: Support the RIAA!

    would you like your 12 year old daughter sued, or your grandfather sued and you dont get inheratance or college here do this grab a gun and kill yourself because your a hinderance to society and are better off dead as they say the tree of life is self pruning, i suggest you follow those orders, your one of the pruned branches

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Goatchowder, 7 Apr 2006 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Support the RIAA!

    "No one ever changed a law by ignoring it."

    Ahem. BULLSHIT.

    1) Jim Crow laws
    2) Prohibition

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Sandbomb, 4 Jul 2006 @ 12:53am


    Okay, im sure everyone is aware of movie and music piracy and the attempt by

    movie and audio labels to stop it. every year millions are brought to court to

    pay huge loads of money just to compinsate for "illegally" viewing a small

    movie or playing a song that might not even popularly last for a month. But

    this year...2006, it will all change, a boycott of original movie and music

    products (DVDS, VHS and CDs) etc will be boycotted by who ever wishes to do so

    to prove to movie studios and music labels that WE are the customers and WE

    make them who they are. it shall start on the 4th of July and hopefully end on

    4th of August. i sure hope you participate in this (hoped to be) global event.

    for more send or add this email "". thank you for your

    time and i hope you spread the word.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Crazy Bill, 11 Sep 2006 @ 6:25am

    RIAA lawsuits are ridiculous

    The topic of copyright theft/infringement is a complex issue, and as with most legal matters, the context will ultimately decide the ruling.

    A 12 year-old girl being sued by the RIAA for copyright infringement is a travesty. She's 12, she most likely doesn't even understand the concept of copyright infringement.

    I can understand that the RIAA needs to clamp down on the download of copyright material, but ruining people's lives is simply overkill . In addition to totally screwing countless people with their laws, they've sullied their public image and destroyed any public trust in their industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Jay, 21 Sep 2006 @ 9:15am

    Re: IANAL, but...

    Erm... If they're committing a crime using my property and that makes me responsible, does that mean:

    1) Banks are partially responsible for being robbed since the crime occurs on their property

    2) Schools where students go on killing sprees are responsible because the shootings occured on their property?

    3) If someone carjacks your car and hits someone with it you're responsible because you allowed your car to be stolen?

    4) If someone borrows your pen and uses it to stab someone in the eye, you're responsible because it's your pen?

    These are all ridiculous -- almost as ridiculous as assuming the owner of a piece of property (be it computer, pen or paperweight) has complete control over how its used by others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    La-Vette, 12 Oct 2006 @ 12:56pm

    Cammon Lawsuits.

    7th Amendment

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Lisa, 20 Nov 2006 @ 9:23am

    Law suits

    No way, I have banned the buying of both music and movies! They couldnt win a legal battle with companies like Kazaa so they went after the little people they knew couldnt affrod it! They are the cowards! I will not give them more money to sue innocent people! Screw that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    omega, 29 Dec 2006 @ 2:15pm

    What a terablo ting

    It is very bad thing tctcttcc :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    adriana, 29 Jun 2007 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re: $ for Kazaa

    YOU were ripped off too... why would you pay $25 for Kazaa? So you won't be "bugged" by ads? I say spend your money on something better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    我淫我色, 24 Feb 2009 @ 6:16pm


    Maybe the RIAA should drop this suit and sue Kazaa on her behalf for misleading her into thinking that the Kazaa service was legal in distributing RIAA copyrighted music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Alex Simms, 5 Oct 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Support the RIAA!

    Comments as strong as this always reek of the person is someway being related to the industry. The average 'concerned citizen' does not really feel that way. People that support the industry and their regulatory boards, in this case, the music industry and RIAA, go about their business and buy their CDs, etc. They don't complain about others on websites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Nick, 21 Mar 2010 @ 7:24pm

    There's an enormous gray area when you weigh free publicity and "getting the word out" vs. losing money on excessive pirating. File sharing can lead to more sales, yet also can increase the volume of illegal downloads.

    The culprits in these cases are not the individual people who are obtaining the music or other copyrighted media, but rather the programs and/or services who facilitate it. The focus of the RIAA should be to remove their content from these free file sharing service, or force the services to remove it (or prevent it from being uploaded or spread in the first place).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Ra, 1 Jun 2010 @ 3:59am

    The situation is the same worldwide

    Looks like they want to become rich now, they dont mind if a family just survive each month hardly, they are introducing DRM and copyrights to everything and this situation is becoming worst every year...why are we allowing this?, if we continue, they will end up controlling Internet...I heared about that Internet control being discussed by some european politicians...why? because we are stupid...aren´t you tired of paying excesive prices and being treated like a thief, being controlled?...It is illegal to resell copyrighted material, but it should not be illegal to use for yourself like it has been the whole suddenly we are all thiefs and they are loosing millions...ohh poor of them, instead 5 ferraris, they have to buy 3...(sarcasm)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Kasuko, 4 Aug 2010 @ 6:24am

    Re: IANAL, but...

    So how about I lend a chainsaw to my neighbor who wants to do remove a tree from his yard. He then procedes to murder people with it. Am I (the owner of the chainsaw) responsible for the actions of the operator? If so I am never ever letting anyone use anything I own ever again, and I vow to spend the rest of my life teaching little children that sharing is in fact BAD and can get you in trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Black-ops, 4 Apr 2011 @ 2:07pm

    RIAA have done it again...

    I seriously wonder why RIAA even bothers with small fish. A specific individual who uses the music for himself (with no financial gain whatsoever) should be permitted to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Lex, 12 Jul 2011 @ 8:03am

    Just pay for it!

    I think the RIAA have every right to sue, okay maybe in the case involved in this article they should give a little slack, as its been said over and over, lending something to someone shouldn't make you responsible for that persons actions, and I think Crazy Bill was spot on when he said the girl probably didnt know what she was going, if a 12 year old can't sign a contract then they can't be legally responsible for breach of any terms of use, etc...

    However those of you claiming its okay to download stuff if its not for financial game are out of order and should be targeted, the song or film, etc belongs to the company who made it, its there product and by illegally downloading it, its theft, just like if you walked into a shop and took something without paying, but I'm going to guess that you think thats okay.

    To everyone who actually pays their taxes and bill, etc and keeps within the law, good on you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Alex, 21 Aug 2011 @ 3:04am

    Re: Just pay for it!

    Ok, but still I think the RIAA's actions are a little bit absurd. It's just overreacting a tad bit, wouldn't you agree?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Doctors help, 9 Sep 2011 @ 11:12am

    Just pay

    All you need to do is to pay the fine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Sustainable Living, 14 Dec 2011 @ 9:06pm

    Common Sense Please

    I wish we could just get some common sense back into these situations. There are those that are flat out malicious, then the others like the 12 year old... Give her and her parents warnings, heck ask them to buy the CD or community service (if found guilty in a court). Let's however be smart about this, ruining someone's life over a Barney song is pointless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Cristian Birmanese, 10 Nov 2012 @ 9:56am

    illegal, yeah right...

    It is illegal to resell copyrighted material, but it should not be illegal to use for yourself like it has been the whole suddenly we are all thiefs and they are loosing millions..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Anon, 1 Dec 2012 @ 3:47am

    Re: IANAL, but...

    Do you want me to search everyone who gets in or out of my car? I'm a taxi driver.. I'm not, but you see the point? Don't let someone in if they MIGHT be carrying is a very loose concept. How would I know if my mother is a secret drug user? I'm not going to ask her.
    So watching over someone's shoulder every-time they touch your computer is acceptable? Even as they enter their private passwords? That would be more an invasion of privacy. And what if they have their own device? Tablet or smartphone but are using your wi-fi/IP address.
    I am not sure how you can say that a person can be partially responsible for another's actions that they cannot predict or be aware of.
    Unless you suggest we get to the point where every individual in a home has their own broadband account with fixed IP addresses so they can individually be traced and held accountable. (And back to your car example - every person has a car with only one door so no-one else can jump in carrying something illegal - perhaps an x-ray machine in the boot/trunk just to be safe, in case grandma has a stash up her rear bumper..).

    So no. I wont be admitting partial responsibility for anything (car or computer) that someone else does without my knowledge. That would be like an Airbus Pilot taking responsibility for a hijacker taking over his plane and shooting people during negotiations. Damn pilot, hope he goes to jail for what he didn't do!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    Larry D (profile), 13 Sep 2013 @ 10:03pm


    Someone has to pay up, people are so far out of control sharing music, etc. I am glad I just listen to talk radio. My music days are way behind me thank God.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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