Grand Junction student faces $121.8M in fines for downloading music
Grand Junction Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION ” Resident and political activist Jacob Richards is being sued in federal district court for copyright infringement for downloading music to his computer.
The Mesa State College student said Wednesday he plans to fight the civil lawsuit, and he’s looking for a low-priced lawyer to help him out.
Richards, 27, was notified more than a year ago that UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Brothers Records wanted information from Qwest, his Internet service provider.
At the time, he joked about it, not taking the issue seriously, he said.
Then in April, reality struck after he was summonsed into U.S. District Court in Denver with the allegation that not only did he download copyrighted music, but he illegally distributed it as well.
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He is alleged to have downloaded 807 audio files. That, multiplied by the maximum fine for each copyright infringement of $150,000, equals a maximum total of $121.8 million in fines if he’s found guilty, he said.
Richards, the son of Pitkin County Commissioner Rachael Richards, admitted to having downloaded music for college projects and “for journalistic pursuits.”
“I did download music, but I’m maintaining my downloading activities are purely research related and covered by fair use,” Richards said.
He also said he didn’t distribute the music, but he did use Lime Wire, a peer-to-peer file-sharing application. Lime Wire automatically diverts recordings into the share folder, making them available to others.
“I didn’t know this at the time,” he said.
“By merely making it available does not mean their copyright was violated,” he said.
If there was other illegal downloading activity, it was done by his roommates or someone else who accessed his house, he said.
Richards must file an answer to the complaint by July 16.
“You’re supposed to lay out your whole case and argument against the record industry,” he said.
His first day in court is scheduled for Aug. 7.
“He’s screwed,” said Jared Judd, a North Las Vegas resident familiar with the issue of copyright infringement cases, but not with Richards’ case. “It’s my understanding that even lawyers can’t save him.”
“Once the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) files a claim against you, they’re pretty sure they’re going to win,” Judd said.
“In my opinion, he probably is guilty of the charges against him, or they wouldn’t be pressed.”
Richards, who said he made $15,600 last year, disdains computers and doesn’t own a car or a cell phone, and he said he can’t afford the $5,000 the record companies offered him to settle.
Now he’s searching for donors and someone willing to work pro bono or to give him advice, because he feels he can win.
He launched a Web site, jacobrichardsdefensefund.org, and is taking credit card and cash donations. So far, he’s raised $100.