Another teenager and the RIAA.
Local Teen Singing The Blues After Being Sued For Downloading Music
November 17, 2003
By Joe Furia
SEATTLE - A crackdown by the music industry has one local family singing the blues. They're being sued because their 15-year-old daughter is accused of illegally downloading and sharing music over the Internet.
Megan Dickenson is in the middle of a controversy she doesn't understand. She's been downloading songs on the Internet -- a lot of songs. About 1,100 at her last count.
And the music industry's not happy. The Recording Industry Association of America is suing Megan and her parents because of all those songs.
When asked if she had any idea there was something wrong with what she was doing, Megan said, "No, not at all."
Megan's mother Becca doesn't know what to do.
"It's unfathomable, I can't believe this is happening to us."
The lawsuit is demanding the family either pay a $3,500 settlement, or fight the suit and go to court. If they lose, they could have to pay $750 per song.
Remember, Megan had 1,100 songs. That's $825,000.
"It's put us in a terrible spot," Becca Dickenson said. "There's enough to worry about with your day-to-day without having something like this happen and it really is just bigger than life."
The family's troubles started at a Web site called Kazaa. Megan downloaded Kazaa software and began downloading songs.
She's says there's nothing on the site or the software warning users they could be doing something illegal.
She also claims she didn't know the software allowed others to tap into her computer to get those songs. It's known as 'file sharing'.
In essence, Megan distributed music illegally -- a violation of federal law.
"It's not like they warned you or anything that it wasn't legal," she said.
Another person we met -- we'll call him John -- has been violating federal law too. He just hasn't been caught.
"I feel like kind of a sucker to pay money for something that I can get for free," he said.
John's music collection dwarfs Megan's: 5,297 songs. At $750 per song, he could face $3.5 million in penalties if he's caught.
He knows about Megan's troubles, but he's not worried.
"The odds are so slim that I would be caught that it seems kind of silly to actually worry about it that much," he said.
The RIAA has reportedly filed more than 260 lawsuits against music lovers who, they say, have been illegally sharing files across the country.
"When your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take action," said Association President Cary Sherman. "We cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying the livelihoods of artists, musicians, songwriters... everyone in the music industry."
However, some local bands say they didn't ask for and don't want protection from fans downloading their music.
"I'm all for file sharing," said Mark Arm, the lead singer for Mudhoney. "I think it's ridiculous that they're going after 80-year-old women and 15-year-old kids, no matter how many items they've downloaded."
The biggest artists may have the most to lose. File sharing takes money out of their pockets, because fans download the music rather than buy it.
Non-mainstream, more independent artists take a different view. File sharing gives them exposure they may not otherwise get.
Megan, meanwhile, doesn't understand all the legal issues or what's at stake. She's 15 -- all she knows is she downloaded some music, and never had any idea it could cause so much trouble.
"Yeah, it seems ridiculous," she said.
More than 50 of the 260 people originally sued by the RIAA have already settled. The Dickinsons' still haven't decided what they're going to do.
Meanwhile, the music industry is moving ahead, and promising more lawsuits.