Portland-area woman fights the RIAA

The Oregonian ran a great story on Sunday about a local woman who was sued, harassed, and stalked by the RIAA for allegedly illegally downloading music — and now she’s suing them back for the two years of harassment they caused her.

Tanya Andersen is her name, and when the Recording Industry Association of America accused her in 2005 of having downloaded thousands of songs, she responded, quite truthfully, that she hadn’t downloaded any songs. She didn’t even know how. She still belonged to a CD mail-order club, for crying out loud.

She offered to let the RIAA inspect her computer, which would have settled the matter then and there. The RIAA refused, telling her the only way to end the case was to pay them thousands of dollars.

Andersen got a lawyer. The RIAA’s collection arm, Settlement Support Center, began calling her regularly, demanding payment. They demanded to talk to Andersen’s 10-year-old daughter (and no, she hadn’t downloaded any songs, either), at one point even calling the girl’s school pretending to be her grandmother.

Andersen found an RIAA or Settlement Support Center official who believed her, but told her, “Once we started a lawsuit, we don’t stop it because it would encourage other people.” In other words, “Yeah, we’re wrong in this case, but we don’t want other people thinking we might be wrong about them, too.”

Can I show you my computer so you can see for yourself? she asks.

No, she’s told. “What are we supposed to do, check everyone’s computer who says they’re innocent?”

(Well … yeah, actually, you probably should.)

Andersen was finally served a federal lawsuit. The RIAA still refused to inspect her computer. A judge ordered it, and there were no song files. The RIAA continued with the lawsuit anyway, in spite of the fact — which was now on the record — that Andersen’s computer was innocent. Andersen tracked down the person who HAD downloaded all the songs, whose Internet ID had mistakenly been attributed to her — a person the RIAA had claimed they couldn’t find. The RIAA responded by making Andersen’s daughter, friends, and relatives give depositions.

Finally, Andersen countersued. The RIAA said it would drop its lawsuit if she dropped hers. She said no. The RIAA blinked and dropped its lawsuit anyway. Now Andersen is persisting with hers.

Good for her! The facts of the case, as detailed in the Oregonian article, are entirely from her perspective, of course, since the RIAA refuses to comment. But then again, if some significant part of Andersen’s version of events were incorrect, the RIAA would have taken the opportunity to set the record straight, rather than saying “no comment.” We all know what “no comment” usually means.

I hope she wins a lot of money, enough to cover her actual costs over the last two years, plus a fair amount for the senseless aggravation they caused her, plus maybe an extra billion or so on top of that, just to send a message to the RIAA that their tactics are not acceptable. The RIAA is probably a useful organization in some way, but right now I just want it to go bankrupt.