RIAA accused of extortion and violation of antitrust laws

By Steve Ragan Feb 2, 2007, 18:09 GMT

According to an Associated Press (AP) wire report, Robert Santangelo, a sixteen-year-old boy who is currently being sued by five record companies for piracy, turned the tables on the recording industry when he filed suit and accused them of extortion, violation of antitrust laws, and conspiring to defraud the courts. Robert, in papers filed in court denies ever serving pirated music online, and notes it is impossible to prove it.
These are strong words, to a group of companies that have filed thousands of lawsuits over the last few years. This isn’t the first time the family has been a target of the RIAA, who is the group that deals with lawsuits of this nature from and against record companies, Roberts mother, Patti, was sued in 2005. Roberts sister, Michelle was ordered to pay over thirty thousand dollars, in a summary judgment because she ignored the lawsuit. Robert has filed his counter suit, accusing the RIAA of damages to his reputation, incurrence of legal fees, and loss of concentration on school due to mental stress or anguish.

Robert, who was eleven at the time of his lawsuit, and his attorney Jordan Glass have listed thirty-two defenses against the lawsuit against him. Among those are several interesting points. His defenses are that he never sent copyrighted music to others, that the recording industry promoted online file sharing until it turned against it. That average computer user was never warned or aware of the illegality of such downloads or sharing. That the statute of limitations in New York has passed, and that the music claimed to have been downloaded, was in fact owned by his sister on store bought CD’s.

The suit goes on to claim that the record companies have filed more than eighteen thousand piracy lawsuits in federal courts, “having engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to defraud the courts of the United States.” The AP report also goes on quoting the court papers that allege that the companies, “ostensibly competitors in the recording industry, are a cartel acting collusively in violation of the antitrust laws and public policy” by bringing the piracy cases jointly and using the same agency “to make extortionate threats … to force defendants to pay.”

What does the RIAA say about this? “The record industry has suffered enormously due to piracy. That includes thousands of layoffs. We must protect our rights. Nothing in a filing full of recycled charges that have gone nowhere in the past changes that fact.”

This will turn out two ways; if it goes to trial this will set a standard for all other RIAA lawsuits. It will also challenge other outstanding cases, which could follow suit and file their own counter claims against the RIAA. A Trial by Jury was demanded by Robert and his attorney, so if it is settled out of court this will also likely cause others facing similar charges to lawyer up and fight. Patti Santangelo, when she took her case against the RIAA public, and fought it until the charges were dropped was hailed as a hero in the eyes of those who support internet freedom. Now it is her son Robert, who will take that mantel, and it appears he is taking it further than anyone else has before.

Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the law suits against ppl.

With even the ‘statistics’ that the industry uses to ‘back up’ it’s piracy claims being thrown into serious doubt, hopefully this will be a nice stab into the ‘heart’ of this so-called ‘anti-piracy’ campaign, where only true pirates that are really profiting from the download and resale of music are nabbed.