The World's Most Expensive Free Music

The RIAA has prevailed in its suit against a Minnesota woman, who they accused of uploading 1700 music files, for copyright infringement. The jury of twelve awarded the plaintiffs a whopping $222,000 dollars.

The verdict, coming after two days of testimony and about five hours of deliberations, was a mixed victory for the RIAA, which has brought more than 20,000 lawsuits in the last four years as part of its zero-tolerance policy against pirating. The outcome is likely to embolden the RIAA, which began targeting individuals in lawsuits after concluding the legal system could not keep pace with the ever growing number of file-sharing sites and services.

Still, it's unlikely the RIAA's courtroom victory will translate into a financial windfall or stop piracy, which the industry claims costs it billions in lost sales. Despite the thousands of lawsuits -- the majority of them settling while others have been dismissed or are pending -- the RIAA's litigation war on internet piracy has neither dented illegal, peer-to-peer file sharing or put much fear in the hearts of music swappers.

According to BigChampagne, an online measuring service, the number of peer-to-peer users unlawfully trading goods has nearly tripled since 2003, when the RIAA began legal onslaught targeting individuals.

It's wishful thinking that lawsuits like this one are going to completely  stop illegal downloading. It's wishful thinking, too, to think that it won't have a chilling effect on people who upload to file sharing sites. It's not free if you get sued.

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