Filed under: FeaturesKnow Your Rights is Engadget's new technology law series, written by our own totally punk copyright attorney Nilay Patel. In it we'll try to answer some fundamental tech-law questions to help you stay out of trouble in this brave new world. Disclaimer: Although this post was written by an attorney, it is not meant as legal advice or analysis and should not be taken as such.
Preface: There's been a lot of discussion about the RIAA's, shall we say "controversial" (and we're being generous here) tactics in suing P2P users who download copyrighted content; especially this week, what with the EFF releasing its "RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later" report. But it's never been easy to find information about the nuts-and-bolts of what happens when you get that first letter from the RIAA. We're not going to get into our feelings about the RIAA and MPAA (you probably already know what we think), but since we've (read: Nilay) been involved in a couple successful defenses -- and a lot of unhappy settlements -- we thought we'd try and break down the process for you. We're not telling you how to avoid or get out of trouble with the RIAA, just how it is that trouble usually operates.
Help! I'm being sued by the RIAA!
Wow, bad luck for you. The RIAA really only sues about 6,000 people a year, mostly those who use FastTrack clients like Kazaa. Users of other networks have been sued, of course, but it's by far Kazaa users who get sued the most often, and generally those who have been unknowingly sharing files. That's a drop in the bucket compared the to estimated nine million people who use P2P software every month.