The recording industry is giving up its lawsuit against Patti Santangelo, a mother of five who became the best-known defendant in the industry's battle against music piracy. However, two of her children are still being sued.
The five companies suing Santangelo, of Wappingers Falls, filed a motion Tuesday in federal court in White Plains asking Judge Colleen McMahon to dismiss the case. Their lead counsel, Richard Gabriel, wrote in court papers that the record companies still believe they could win damages against Santangelo but their preference was to "pursue defendant's children."
The five companies are: Elektra Entertainment Group Inc., Virgin Records America Inc., UMG Recordings Inc., BMG Music and Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
Santangelo's lawyer, Jordan Glass, said the dismissal bid "shows defendants can stand up to powerful plaintiffs." He noted, however, that the companies were seeking a dismissal "without prejudice," meaning they could bring the action again, "so I'm not sure what that's worth."
The companies, coordinated by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have sued more than 18,000 people, including many minors, accusing them of pirating music through file-sharing computer networks, most of which have been forced out of business. Typically, the industry tracked downloads to a computer address and learned the name of the computer owner from the Internet service provider.
When Santangelo, 42, was sued last year, she said she had never downloaded music and was unaware of her children doing it. If children download, she said, file-sharing programs like Kazaa should be blamed, not the parents. The judge called her an "Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo."
Santangelo refused to settle with the record companies, pleaded her case in newspapers and on national TV and became a heroine to defenders of Internet freedom, who helped raise money for her defense.
Last month, the record companies filed lawsuits against Santangelo's 20-year-old daughter, Michelle, and 16-year-old son, Robert, saying they had downloaded and distributed more than 1,000 recordings.
The companies said that the daughter had acknowledged downloading songs on the family computer — which Glass denied — and that the son had been implicated in statements from his best friend.
The suit against the children seeks unspecified damages.