Several Internet music services and a disc jockey have offered to reimburse a New York woman who paid $2,000 to settle charges that her 12-year-old daughter illegally copied music online.
P2P United, a coalition of "peer-to-peer" song-swapping networks, said on Thursday it was trying to locate Sylvia Torres so it could pay the legal settlement she reached with the Recording Industry Association of America on Tuesday.
Rochester, New York radio disc jockey Brother Wease also offered to pay Torres' legal bill, and online music retailer MusicRebellion.com said it would allow Torres' daughter, Brianna Lahara, to download $2,000 worth of free music from its industry-sanctioned site.
However, the would-be benefactors all said they would not extend their offers to the 260 other individuals who face RIAA lawsuits for copying music through Kazaa, Grokster and other peer-to-peer networks.
"It seems fitting that P2P United is willing to pay Brianna's settlement fees since it was their members who induced her infringement in the first place," said RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy.
Lahara, a Manhattan honor student who offered Madonna's "Material Girl" and some 1,000 other songs through Kazaa, has emerged as something of a poster girl for those who denounce the RIAA's legal campaign as heavy-handed.
"Out of all the millions of people who have downloaded, some girl in a housing project in New York City has got to come up with two grand?" said Wease, who offered to help through his charitable children's fund.
"I just feel that these people are bullies," said Grokster President Wayne Rosso, a member of the P2P United trade group, which offered to pay Torres' bill. "They're like the show-business version of the Taliban."
Lamy said the recording industry was not targeting 12-year-olds. The only information it had when it filed the suits was the name and address of the Internet account holder, he added.
"The objective of this campaign is not to win a popularity contest, but to communicate a message of deterrence so people realize there can be consequences to this illegal behavior," Lamy said.
Rosso said the industry should try to work out a solution with Grokster and other peer-to-peer networks so record labels can be paid for the billions of songs downloaded monthly. One solution could be a flat, per-song royalty rate similar to that paid by radio stations and Webcasters, he said.
Lamy said a flat-fee approach would be impossible because it would have to encompass movies, books and other copyrighted material traded online, as well as take foreign users into account.
Traffic has remained steady on peer-to-peer networks since the lawsuits were filed, officials at the networks said.
RIAA members include Vivendi Universal's Universal Music, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Music Group, Sony Corp.'s Sony Music, Bertelsmann AG's BMG, and EMI Group Plc .