By Eric Flack
(LOUISVILLE, June 15th, 2004, 6 p.m.) -- A local teen is in serious legal trouble with some of the biggest names in music. The record industry is suing her for illegally downloading music, and her family now faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if they don't settle the case. WAVE 3's Eric Flack reports.
A 17-year-old graduate of Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville is now facing the wrath of the Recording Industry Association of America. The group has been cracking down on people across the country who swap tunes on the Internet.
RIAA spokesman Johnathan Lamy spoke with us by phone. "It is very clear under the law that downloading or uploading a copyrighted song is against the law. Some people will not stop the activity until they recognize there are consequences, that there is a chance of actually getting caught."
The teen is part of the latest round of lawsuits filed by the RIAA for allegedly illegally downloading music off the Internet. "These are not casual downloaders," Lamy says. "The average number of songs on these individuals' hard drives that they are making available or downloading for free is around 800."
The Louisville teen told us she downloaded more than a thousand songs from a website called www.gropster.com. Now, the RIAA says if her family doesn't settle the suit, it will press forward with litigation.
The family could face fines of $750 per song -- $750,000 in all.
With fines that steep, the RIAA spokesman says "We think the majority of people will be interested in settling," Lamy says.
Even those who believe they've done nothing wrong says copyright attorney Scot Duvall. "For a young person heading off to college, the last thing they want is this hanging over their head. And for most families, I imagine the legal cost would be astounding, and would really prevent them from fully litigating the issue. And the recording industry realizes that."
The RIAA maintains the lawsuits aren't about money. "The idea here is not to win lawsuits is not to make money," Lamy says. "It's to send a message that there are consequences to this activity."
Based on past cases, the 17-year-old's family could end up settling with the record industry for about $4,000.
The RIAA has collected around $1.5 million in settlement money since it started filing lawsuits last fall.
The spokesman said the RIAA had to start suing people because CD sales were down 20 percent thanks to online music sharing.
The teen's family didn't want to talk to us because they hadn't yet consulted an attorney.
Online Reporter: Eric Flack