Alleged MP3 Pirate Sues RIAA, Says Group Uses Mafia Tactics

Lawsuit claims labels use legal threats to scare people into settling.

One of the more than 1,000 alleged downloaders sued so far by the Recording Industry Association of America has fired back with a lawsuit of her own, claiming she's been blackmailed.

Michele Scimeca of Rockaway Township, New Jersey, filed a civil lawsuit Thursday accusing the RIAA, a group representing the major record label conglomerates, of violating anti-racketeering statutes by using scare tactics to extort money from alleged file-sharers. Her complaint argues the lawsuits filed by the RIAA are intended to extract financial settlements.

"Instead of merely providing service of the complaint upon the various defendants, including Ms. Scimeca, the plaintiffs have opted to include a letter discussing and prompting settlement of the copyright infringement action," states the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey. "This scare tactic has caused a vast amount of settlements from individuals who feared fighting such a large institution and feel victim to these actions and felt forced to provide funds to settle these actions instead of fighting the institution."

Bart Lombardo, Scimeca's attorney, was not immediately available, but has said the RIAA is essentially asking defendants to pay a little now or a lot later, which he says violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act passed in 1970 to help prosecute organized crime.

"We are always open to settlement discussions with anyone," RIAA spokesperson Jonathan Lamy said Friday. "If someone prefers not to settle, they of course have the opportunity to raise their objections in court. We stand by our claims."

Scimeca, who was one of the 531 people sued Wednesday by the RIAA, also plans to challenge the legality of suing individuals for online file-sharing, although it will be separate from her current lawsuit.

In an unrelated press conference Thursday, RIAA Director of Antipiracy Brad Buckles said he was not aware of the lawsuit but that he considered the group's lawsuits successful.

"I think we've seen some great strides out of that," Buckles told reporters. "People are beginning to realize that what at first blush might seem like innocent activity, moving files around on the Internet, is in fact theft of property from artists and companies."

Scimeca is the second alleged downloader to sue the RIAA. A California man is accusing the association of misleading people into admitting their guilt through its Clean Slate program, which alleges to offer amnesty to remorseful file-sharers.

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