While most recipients of RIAA lawsuits quickly settle out of court, a big challenge could come from an unlikely source.
Patricia Santangelo, a single soccer mom from Wappingers Falls, NY, has decided to go to trial with the RIAA. The mother of four recently received a letter from the trade group, though she claims to have no knowledge of any file-sharing on her family computer. According to a report from the local Journal News, Santangelo had no knowledge that the file-swapping was happening on her PC, and attributed the illegal behavior to a visitor. The lawsuit was originally filed in February by the RIAA in the US District Court in White Plains.
The Santangelo challenge would represent the first time the RIAA has had to go to trial against an accused individual, even after filing over 13,000 lawsuits since September, 2003. For most targeted file-sharers, the threat of paying thousands per infringed track is simply too great a risk to bear, making a quick settlement a sound compromise. But the upcoming trial could be a big one for the music industry, challenging the legal foundation that the RIAA is using to sue thousands of file uploaders. From the beginning, the RIAA has pointed a crystal clear body of law on the matter, though the extreme downside risk made a challenge of this sort unlikely. Now, the stage may be set for an Erin Brockovich-style trial, potentially attracting heavy press buzz. US District Judge Colleen McMahon, who will preside over the challenge, most recently told the Journal, “I would love to see a mom fighting one of these.”