Faced with lawsuits, at least 52 people rolled over rather than fighting the recording industry in court, while a dozen more gave up before ever being served.
Less than three weeks after the Recording Industry Association of America announced that 261 copyright-infringement lawsuits were en route to alleged file-sharers, 64 people have settled out of court with the copyright-holding organization, according to an RIAA spokesperson. The 12 pre-litigation settlements came after the accused learned that they were identified and legal action could be imminent.
Open season on illegal file-sharers was declared on September 8, and less than 24 hours later, the first target, the mother of 12-year-old Brianna LaHara, settled for $2,000 (see "One Sued File-Sharer Settles With RIAA ... 260 To Go").
The RIAA didn't specify how much the defendants settled for, but the Associated Press, quoting defense lawyers familiar with some of the cases, reported that the sums ranged from $2,500 to $7,500. At least one online pirate reportedly paid as much as $10,000.
Hundreds more lawsuits, each of which could amount to millions of dollars, are expected to be filed in October.
Additionally, 838 affidavits were received as part of the recording industry's Clean Slate Program, which gives amnesty to those who identify themselves and promise to no longer illegally share music online. Previously identified targets of the RIAA's litigation campaign — launched more to raise awareness of the issue and frighten off the most generous sharers than for actual financial retribution — are not eligible for amnesty.
"The music community's efforts have triggered a national conversation — especially between parents and kids — about what's legal and illegal when it comes to music on the Internet," said RIAA President Cary Sherman in as statement. "In the end it will be decided not in the courtrooms, but at kitchen tables across the country."
If that's the case, such table talk may be about as well-received as brussels sprouts. Following the announcement that the lawsuits were looming, traffic on the popular peer-to-peer file-sharing network Kazaa fell by 35 percent, though it continues to serve approximately 4 million users per week. Overall, about 64 million Americans persist in file-sharing (see "Poll Finds Most People Think It's OK To Share Music Online").
For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.