Four Australian students who were charged for running a web site providing links to copyrighted materials have cut a deal with the RIAA and will each be paying between $12,000 and $17,000 over the next several years. In theory, the RIAA could have sought up to $100 million in damages, but being the kind folks that they are, the RIAA agreed to the meager settlement.
"Given that these were the first lawsuits of this kind and that these individuals had limited means, we believe that the settlements were appropriate," an RIAA spokeswoman said.Is this the face of a kinder, gentler, and more understanding RIAA? Probably not.
Whether $12,000 to $17,000 will be enough of a deterrent for current MP3 swappers remains to be seen. Since the case didn't directly address the swapping of copyrighted material over peer-to-peer networks, it's unlikely that the settlement will scare off many P2P pirates. However, if the RIAA keeps up its instant messaging campaign and manages to bring some of the actual individuals responsible for P2P-fueled copyright violations to court, many casual P2P pirates may decide that online song swapping simply isn't worth the risk.
Of course, it's likely that the RIAA's targeting of individual song swappers will also increase the popularity of more secure and anonymous P2P networks that the RIAA is ill-equipped to take on.
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