Girl, 12, Settles Piracy Suit for $2,000

By | September 10, 2003 at 12:00 AM

A 12-year-old girl in New York who was among the first to be sued by the record industry for sharing music over the Internet is off the hook after her mother agreed Tuesday to pay $2,000 to settle the lawsuit, apologizing and admitting that her daughter’s actions violated U.S. copyright laws.

The hurried settlement involving Brianna LaHara, an honors student, was the first announced one day after the Recording Industry Association of America filed 261 such lawsuits across the country. Lawyers for the RIAA said Brianna’s mother, Sylvia Torres, contacted them early Tuesday to negotiate.

“We understand now that file-sharing the music was illegal,” Torres said in a statement distributed by the recording industry. “You can be sure Brianna won’t be doing it anymore.”

Brianna added: “I am sorry for what I have done. I love music and don’t want to hurt the artists I love.”

The case against Brianna was a potential minefield for the music industry from a public relations standpoint. The family lives in a city housing project on New York’s Upper West Side, and they said they mistakenly believed they were entitled to download music over the Internet because they had paid $29.99 for software that gives them access to online file-sharing services.

Even in the hours before the settlement was announced, Brianna was emerging as an example of what critics said was overzealous enforcement by the powerful music industry.

The top lawyer for Verizon Communications Inc. charged earlier Tuesday during a Senate hearing that music lawyers had resorted to a “campaign against 12-year-old girls” rather than trying to help consumers turn to legal sources for songs online. Verizon’s Internet subsidiary is engaged in a protracted legal fight against the RIAA over copyright subpoenas sent Verizon customers.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also alluded to Brianna’s case.

“Are you headed to junior high schools to round up the usual suspects?” Durbin asked RIAA President Cary Sherman during a Senate Judiciary hearing.

Durbin said he appreciated the piracy threat to the recording industry, but added, “I think you have a tough public relations campaign to go after the offenders without appearing heavy-handed in the process.”

Sherman responded that most people don’t shoplift because they fear they’ll be arrested.

“We’re trying to let people know they may get caught, therefore they should not engage in this behavior,” Sherman said. “Yes, there are going to be some kids caught in this, but you’d be surprised at how many adults are engaged in this activity.”

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