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RIAA settles for $7,000 after 4 years pursuing NY mum

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The recording industry has accepted a paltry $7,000 to settle a long-running federal music piracy lawsuit it brought against a family in New York four years ago.

The settlement to end the legal spat between the family of 46-year-old divorced mother of five, Patricia Santangelo, who lives in Wappingers Falls, NY, and the Recording Industry Ass. of America was approved late last week.

Santangelo was one of 14,800 people sued by the RIAA, after it undertook an aggressive anti-piracy campaign against individuals who downloaded and distributed music on the interwebs.

The RIAA accused her of illegally distributing copyrighted material, but Santangelo claimed a friend of the family had put Kazaa on her computer and said she had not heard of the P2P service before the legal action kicked off.

For a while she became something of a poster child for the file-sharing community. In January 2006 an online news service collected money for Santangelo's defence fund as part of its “Fight Goliath” campaign to help “victims” of the RIAA.

It raised about $15,000 for the New York mum; she had racked up huge expenses to fight the case. If she had settled out of court Santangelo would have been required to pay $4,000.

The RIAA actually brought two lawsuits against Santangelo and her family over the past four years.

It dropped its initial suit against her and filed a new one against two of her offspring, Michelle and Robert, who were aged 20 and 16 at the time. The suit accused the two of downloading and distributing 1,000 songs including “MMMBop” by Hanson and "Beat It” by Michael Jackson.

Both denied wrongdoing, but the RIAA said Michelle had admitted piracy in a deposition and added that a friend had implicated Robert.

The $7,000 settlement was filed in court in White Plains late last Friday. The family paid half the amount on 20 April and are required to make six payments of $583.33 by October this year, according to Associated Press.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Santangelos,” Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, told AP. She declined to comment on how much the organisation had spent to secure the $7,000 settlement.

“We don’t break out costs per case, and it’s not a question of it being ‘worth it’ or a ‘victory’,” she said. ®

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