A US federal appeals court has upheld the mammoth $22,500 (£12,760, €18,930) fine slapped on a 29 year old Chicago mother caught illegally distributing songs over the Internet.
Cecilia Gonzalez’s unsuccessful appeal against a music industry copyright lawsuit will no doubt delight music industry lawyers, who have already filed against thousands of computer users.
The three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago weren’t interested in Ms Gonzalez’ arguments that her Internet activities were permitted under US copyright laws.
After Ms Gonzalez rejected an earlier proposed settlement from music companies of about $3,500 (£1,950 €2,950), a federal judge later filed a summary judgement ordering her to shell out $750 (£425) for each of 30 songs she was accused of illegally distributing over the Internet.
The mother of five contended she had downloaded songs to determine what she liked enough to buy at retail, adding that she and her husband regularly buy music CDs, with over 250 albums in their collection.
The appeal panel weren’t impressed, pointing out that because Ms Gonzalez didn’t delete the songs she hadn’t decided to buy, she could have been liable for the 1000+ songs found on her computer.
“A copy downloaded, played, and retained on one’s hard drive for future use is a direct substitute for a purchased copy,” the judges wrote, adding that her defence that she downloaded fewer songs than many other computer users “is no more relevant than a thief’s contention that he shoplifted only 30 compact discs, planning to listen to them at home and pay later.”
Ms Gonzalez’s case was part of first wave of civil lawsuits filed by record companies and their trade organisation, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), back in September 2003.
“The law here is quite clear,” table-thumped Jonathan Lamy, a senior vice-president for the Washington-based RIAA. “Our goal with all these anti-piracy efforts is to protect the ability of the music industry to invest in the bands of tomorrow and give legal online services a chance to flourish.”
And make lots of money for themselves, of course.