Since 2003 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed almost 15,000 lawsuits charging computer users with trading music online. Now one of its targets is suing back. Tanya Andersen, a 42-year-old disabled single mother, has filed a countersuit in Oregon alleging that the industry's practices violate, among other laws, the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Last February, Andersen got a letter from a Los Angeles law firm informing her she was being sued for copyright infringement. MediaSentry, an investigator retained by the recording industry, had allegedly caught her collecting gangsta rap on her hard drive late one night using peer-to-peer file sharing software. Andersen's attorney, Lory R. Lybeck, says Andersen doesn't know how to use such software–indeed, that she doesn't even like gangsta rap. According to Lybeck, when Andersen tried to protest her innocence and offered up her computer for forensic analysis, she was told that the suit had to continue or others might be deterred from settling.
If Andersen really is being falsely charged, she probably isn't unique. In October attorney Ray Beckerman, who is defending another single mother against an RIAA suit, told Wired News he believes thousands of defendants may have been falsely accused. As Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director Cindy Cohn points out, investigators may incorrectly link file lists to Internet protocol addresses, and cable companies have been known to incorrectly link IP addresses to customers. Furthermore, as home and caf? wireless networks become more common, there's no guarantee that the customer was the one sharing music.?