Tammy Lafky has a computer at home but said she doesn't use it. "I don't know how," the 41-year-old woman said, somewhat sheepishly.But her 15-year-old daughter, Cassandra, does. And what Cassandra may have done, like millions of other teenagers and adults around the world, landed Lafky in legal hot water this week that could cost her thousands of dollars.
Lafky, a sugar mill worker and single mother in Bird Island, a farming community 90 miles west of St. Paul, became the first Minnesotan sued by name by the recording industry this week for allegedly downloading copyrighted music illegally.The lawsuit has stunned Lafky, who earns $12 an hour and faces penalties that top $500,000. She says she can't even afford an offer by the record companies to settle the case for $4,000.
The ongoing music downloading war is being fought on one side by a $12 billion music industry that says it is steadily losing sales to online file sharing. On the other side, untold millions of people — many of them too young to drive — who have been downloading free music off file-sharing sites with odd names like Kazaa and Grokster and who are accusing the music industry of price gouging and strong-arm tactics.
Lafky says she doesn't download free music. Her daughter did last year when she was 14, but neither of them knew it was illegal because all of Cassandra's friends at school were doing it."She says she can't believe she's the only one being sued," Lafky said. "She told me, 'I can't be the only one. Everybody else does it.' "
A record company attorney from Los Angeles contacted Lafky about a week ago, telling Lafky she could owe up to $540,000, but the companies would settle for $4,000."I told her I don't have the money," Lafky said. "She told me to go talk to a lawyer and I told her I don't have no money to talk to a lawyer."
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