By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
A federal appeals court late Friday upheld the music industry's
$22,500 judgment against a Chicago mother caught illegally
distributing songs over the Internet.
The court rejected her defense that she was innocently sampling music
to find songs she might buy later and compared her downloading and
distributing the songs to shoplifting.
The decision against Cecilia Gonzalez, 29, represents one of the
earliest appeals court victories by the music industry in copyright
lawsuits it has filed against thousands of computer users. The
three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh
Circuit in Chicago threw out Gonzalez's arguments that her Internet
activities were permitted under U.S. copyright laws.
Gonzalez had rejected a proposed settlement from music companies of
about $3,500. A federal judge later filed a summary judgment against
her and ordered her to pay $750 for each of 30 songs she was accused
of illegally distributing over the Internet.
Gonzalez, a mother of five, contended she had downloaded songs to
determine what she liked enough to buy at retail. She said she and her
husband regularly buy music CDs and own more than 250.
However, the appeals panel said Gonzalez never deleted songs off her
computer she decided not to buy, and judges said she could have been
liable for more than 1,000 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. They said her defense 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."
Gonzalez could not be reached for comment. Her lawyer, Geoff Baker,
said comparing Gonzalez to a shoplifter was "inflammatory" but
declined to comment further until he had more time to review the
decision, which was released late in the day.
Gonzalez was named in the first wave of civil lawsuits filed by record
companies and their trade organization, the Recording Industry
Association of America, in September 2003.
"The law here is quite clear," said 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."
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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