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The music industry in the US is making great strides in its campaign against people it says have illegally downloaded music, with courts awarding huge settlements in many cases.

A man in California was hit with an $11,000 fine, and has had to re-mortgage his house in order to pay it. He explained that the record companies would have been able to garnishee [seize against the settlement sum] his earnings for the rest of his life, had he not done so. Ross Plank, 36, told the Associated Press that he was giving up. "I can't fight this," he said. "They've got all the power in the world".

The news comes just days after a landmark ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco that the makers of P2P networks should not be held accountable for their users' actions. The users, however, are fair game.

In another case, in Milwaukee, the courts awarded a default judgment against a woman and her ex-boyfriend, ordering each to pay over $4,500. She denies illegally downloading music, but says she couldn't afford a lawyer to fight the case and so ignored legal documents sent to her house.

The ostrich approach, illustrated here, clearly has little to recommend it: over 60 such judgements have been issued.

There are a few cases where the record companies are having to fight a little harder. In Boston, District Court Judge Gertner has blocked movement on all Massachusetts cases for months. She told AP that this was a totally new situation: "I've never had a situation... where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side," she said.

In another instance, on the west coast this time, a judge rejected a request from the record company to ban a woman from distributing music illegally in the future. The judge, who had already imposed a $6,200 fine, said that there was no evidence that the woman was still breaking the law, and that putting limits on her future actions could violate her rights. ®

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