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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Canadian record label taking on the RIAA over lawsuits

Geoff Martin, canada.com

Published: Friday, January 27, 2006

Canada’s largest privately owned record label — which represents such homegrown successes as Avril Lavigne, the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan — has joined one Texas family’s fight against the Recording Industry Association of America.

Vancouver-based Nettwerk Music Group has taken up the cause of David Greubel and his family, who are being sued by the RIAA for songs they had indirectly offered through a peer-to-peer file-sharing program installed on their computer. Although the Greubels’ computer had more than 600 songs available, the RIAA is seeking damages totaling US$9,000 for the distribution of nine specific songs, including Lavigne’s hit "Sk8er Boi."

The Greubels have been told the RIAA would accept a payment of US$4,500 if it was received during a specific timeframe, but Nettwerk has convinced the family to fight the case, and has pledged to pay for all of the family’s legal fees, in addition to any fines they might receive should they lose.

“Suing music fans is not the solution, it’s the problem,” Terry McBride, C.E.O of Nettwerk Music Group, said in a statement. “Litigation is not ‘artist development.’ Litigation is a deterrent to creativity and passion and it is hurting the business I love. The current actions of the RIAA are not in my artists’ best interests.”

Nettwerk became involved with the case when Greubel’s 15-year-old daughter Elisa wrote to punk-rapper MC Lars, another of Nettwerk’s musical acts, to say that she appreciated the sentiments in “Download This Song” -- one of the tracks on his upcoming album.

The song is directed at record label executives, who MC Lars says are “stuck in 1992,” and includes lyrics such as, “Music was a product, now it is a service / Major record labels, why you trying to hurt us?”
But according to Nettwerk, Elisa Greubel’s letter to MC Lars indicated she was struck by one line in particular.

“My family is one of many seemingly randomly chosen families to be sued by the RIAA,” she wrote. “No fun. You can’t fight them, trying could possibly cost us millions. The line, ‘They sue little kids downloading hit songs’ basically sums a lot of the whole thing up.”

Thanks to Nettwerk’s intervention, the Greubels will be represented by Charles Lee Mudd Jr., a Chicago-based lawyer whose firm Mudd Law Offices has defended several of the more than 1,000 people the RIAA has subpoenaed since the first lawsuits were filed in 2003.

Mudd issued the following statement: "Since 2003 the RIAA has continually misused the court and legal system, engaging in misguided litigation tactics for the purpose of extorting settlement amounts from everyday people — parents, students, doctors, and general consumers of music. In doing so, the RIAA has misapplied existing copyright law and improperly employed its protections not as a shield, but as a sword.”
David Greubel is also thankful for the help.

"This is not right!" Greubel said. "Anyone who has been involved in the legal system knows the feeling of being forced into a position they do not believe in, simply because they did not have the resources to have their day in court. Mr. McBride has stood up, and again said, 'This is not right!' Thank God for people like him."

© 2006


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