Single Mom Preparing to Fight RIAA

Patricia Santangelo, a single mom of five kids from Wappingers Falls, NY, is fighting the RIAA over a file-sharing lawsuit. She rejected a $7,500 settlement offer and has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

Her defense appears to be that the file-trading taking place on her computer was done by a friend of her children. If true, this defense is potentially meritorious. She didn’t commit the infringement, nor did her kids. I have a hard time constructing a theory of contributory or vicarious infringement that would hold her liable for the third party’s actions, even if she owned the computer and paid for the Internet access account. If the case gets that far, the real question is: was the downloading really done by a friend, and will a finder of fact believe it?

She is hardly the first person to fight the RIAA. I previously wrote about a Racine man who was planning to fight. The article quotes a Beverly Hills lawyer who has handled 15 cases; in some cases, the RIAA dropped the lawsuit, and in other cases, the RIAA won on summary judgment. (For an example of that, recall BMG v. Gonzalez).

But the newsworthy aspect is that she might be the first who will end up taking the case to trial (if she can get that far). If so, we might get more insights into the propriety of the RIAA’s one-size-fits-all approach to litigation thus far.

UPDATE: There is some pushback to the RIAA’s tactics. One woman has brought counterclaims against the RIAA. Wired recaps some of the various stories.