Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NY Teen in Piracy Lawsuit Accuses Record Companies of Collusion

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) -- A 16-year-old boy being sued for online music piracy accused the recording industry on Tuesday of violating antitrust laws, conspiring to defraud the courts and making extortionate threats.

In papers responding to a lawsuit filed by five record companies, Robert Santangelo, who was as young as 11 when the alleged piracy occurred, denied ever disseminating music and said it's impossible to prove that he did.

Santangelo is the son of Patti Santangelo, the 42-year-old suburban mother of five who was sued by the record companies in 2005. She refused to settle, took her case public and became a heroine to supporters of Internet freedom.

The industry dropped its case against her in December but sued Robert and his sister Michelle, now 20, in federal court in White Plains. Michelle has been ordered to pay $30,750 in a default judgment because she did not respond to the lawsuit.

Robert Santangelo and his lawyer, Jordan Glass, responded at length on Tuesday, raising 32 defenses, demanding a jury trial and filing a counterclaim against the companies for allegedly damaging the boy's reputation, distracting him from school and costing him legal fees.

His defenses to the industry's lawsuit include that he never sent copyrighted music to others; that the recording companies promoted file sharing before turning against it; that average computer users were never warned that it was illegal; that the statute of limitations has passed; and that all the music claimed to have been downloaded was actually owned by his sister on store-bought CDs.

Santangelo also claims that the record companies, which have filed more than 18,000 piracy lawsuits in federal courts, "have engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to defraud the courts of the United States.''

The papers allege that the companies, "ostensibly competitors in the recording industry, are a cartel acting collusively in violation of the antitrust laws and public policy'' by bringing the piracy cases jointly and using the same agency "to make extortionate threats ... to force defendants to pay.''

The Recording Industry Association of America, which has coordinated most of the lawsuits, issued a statement saying, "The record industry has suffered enormously due to piracy. That includes thousands of layoffs. We must protect our rights. Nothing in a filing full of recycled charges that have gone nowhere in the past changes that fact.''