RIAA settles with 12-year-old pirate's mother

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has settled the first of the 261 lawsuits it filed on Monday against music enthusiasts who, the association alleges, have uploaded more than 1,000 files using online music-sharing services such as Kazaa and Grokster.

The settlement was reached with the mother of 12-year-old Brianna Lahara, a user of the Kazaa file-sharing service. Lahara was featured on the cover of Tuesday's New York Post newspaper, which described the girl as being scared and on the verge of tears when she discovered she was being sued.

Sylvia Torres has agreed to pay the RIAA US$2,000 to settle the case, according to RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss, who declined to explain how the association arrived at the amount of the settlement. "We don’t want to talk about the process of settlements. We want people to know that trading music online is illegal and there are consequences," she said.

"I am sorry for what I have done. I love music and don't want to hurt the artists I love," the girl was quoted as saying in an RIAA news release.

Weiss did not say whether the press coverage had affected the terms of the settlement, but Lahara's age was probably a factor, according to EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze, who has been following the RIAA's actions. "I suspect the fact that she's 12 years old encouraged them to settle," she said.

The RIAA lawsuits, which seek thousands of dollars in damages from alleged peer-to-peer file swappers, represent an escalation of the music industry group's battle against online file sharing. That battle has only recently begun to target individual users.

The EFF, a digital rights advocacy group, has been critical of the RIAA's tactics in its battle against file swappers.

"The point here is that suing 12-year-olds isn't actually achieving anything from the consumer point of view," Hinze said. "And it isn't achieving anything from the music industry's point of view. It's not going to encourage people to buy more CDs. It's going to encourage people to be frightened.''

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Robert McMillan

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