San Francisco - Seven major record labels dismissed charges of copyright infringement leveled at a 65-year-old educator, artist, and grandmother from Massachusetts late last week.
Sarah Ward was one of 261 individuals sued by the recording industry for allegedly sharing copyrighted music using peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing systems.
What was the problem? The recording industry charged Ward with sharing songs using the KaZaA filesharing software, but she owns only a Macintosh computer which cannot run KaZaA.
Ward strongly denied using any filesharing software and explained that she listens to classical and folk music, not the rock and hip hop music referred to in the complaint.
The seven record labels sued Ward solely on the basis of "screen shots" from the KaZaA network and information obtained from a controversial subpoena issued to Comcast, Ward's Internet service provider, under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Comcast did not inform Ward before releasing her identity to the recording industry, a step that might have allowed her to clear her name without the need for a lawsuit.
"The Sarah Ward case demonstrates the reckless, frightening nature of the recording industry's campaign against ordinary Americans," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "These record labels violated her privacy, sued her for potentially millions of dollars, and forced her to hire a defense lawyer before finally recognizing that they had no case against her."
"I'm particularly concerned about others who may not have the support I did to defend myself and clear my name," commented Ward. "And of course as a grandmother and teacher, I worry about a world where people don't feel the need to apologize or make amends when they make a mistake."
"The recording industry will continue to catch -- and terrify -- innocent people like Sarah Ward in its dragnet as long as these lawsuits continue," added EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "What we need is a global solution that legalizes file-sharing, gets artists paid, and halts the recording industry's litigation machine."
Although Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) spokesperson Jonathan Lamy told Associated Press that the group is targeting only "proven, egregious offenders," RIAA President Cary Sherman admitted to CNET that the recording industry makes no attempt to contact informally the targets of the lawsuits before suing them.
The seven record labels that sued Ward are Sony Music Entertainment, Inc, BMG Music, Virgin Records America, Inc., Interscope Records, Atlantic Recording Corporation, Warner Brothers Records, Inc., and Arista Records, Inc.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/