Just Ask Gonzo: Downloaders facing the music

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 21, 2006, 7:09am

Question: Several years ago I downloaded music from the Internet. I noticed recently that you have reported lawsuits about people being sued for copyright infringements.

What is the current status of these cases, are people paying huge fines or going to jail?

Jerry Kennedy
Juneau, Ala.

Gonzo: My advice to you is buy the CD, otherwise you may be fined thousands of dollars just like Ronnie Stewart of Marion.

United States District Judge Phil Gilbert entered a default judgment against Stewart for nearly $4,000 when he failed to make or respond to any court dates after he was served summons.

In March, Song BMG, Mowtown Records, Arista Records and UMG Recordings filed two separate suits in U.S. District Court against Theresa Robinson of Mt. Vernon and Ronnie Stewart of Marion seeking damages and injunctive relief under federal copyright laws.

Robinson has yet to be served summons, according to court documents. When the process server arrived at her home it was vacant. Judge Gilbert gave the defendants until Sept. 22 to execute to summons.

Arista Records dismissed its claims against Robinson.

The record companies claim that Stewart and Robinson used the Internet to download copyrighted recordings and distributed the music to the public, or made the music available for distribution to others.

According to exhibits provided by the record companies, Stewart and Robinson used the peer-to-peer file sharing software called "Kazaa."

The record companies claim the alleged acts of infringement have been willful and intentional, in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of each of them.

According to court documents, Robinson was sharing 814 files from artists like Ruben Studdard, Busta Rhymes, Master P, Frank Sinatra and from the musical Chicago.

Stewart was sharing files that included artists like B.B. King, U2, Isley Brothers and Al Wilson.

The record companies are seeking an injunction that states:

"Defendant shall be and hereby is enjoined from directly or indirectly infringing Plaintiffs' rights under federal or state law in the Copyrighted Recordings and any sound recording, whether now in existence or later created, that is owned or controlled by Plaintiffs (or any parent, subsidiary, or affiliate record label of Plaintiffs) ("Plaintiffs' Recordings"), including without limitation by using the Internet or any online media distribution system to reproduce (i.e., download) any of Plaintiffs' Recordings, to distribute (i.e., upload) any of Plaintiffs' Recordings, or to make any of Plaintiffs' Recordings available for distribution to the public, except pursuant to a lawful license or with the express authority of Plaintiffs.

"Defendant also shall destroy all copies of Plaintiffs' Recordings that Defendant has downloaded onto any computer hard drive or server without Plaintiffs' authorization and shall destroy all copies of those downloaded recordings transferred onto any physical medium or device in Defendant's possession, custody, or control."

Plaintiffs also are seeking damages for each downloaded music file, costs of the suit and attorney fees.

The record companies are represented by Steven Mandell and Steven Baron of Chicago.

On Sept. 5, the record companies sued four more individuals in southern Illinois. The defendants in those cases are currently in the process of being served.

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