Feeling that its back was pushed against the wall, the RIAA decided to take a zero tolerance approach to enforcing music copyrights and, thus, began suing anyone and everyone who was suspected of infringing its members’ copyrights.50 This included not only file sharing websites such as Napster, Grokster, and ThePirateBay, but also children, mothers, and next door neighbors.51 Even though the RIAA had success in many of the lawsuits it filed, the overall effect of its lawsuits did not stop piracy.52
The lawsuit victories against Napster, Grokster, ThePirateBay, and other file-sharing websites have always been short lived.53 Once courts shape copyright law to prohibit a certain type of file-sharing on the Internet, another better way to share files has already been invented and put into use in a way that the law does not cover yet.54 The creators of these sites are intelligent people that are using state-of-the-art digital technology and also know the state of copyright law on the Internet. They are a force not to be underestimated, especially when they are driven not by financial gain, but by furthering their own ideals of living in a world that shares all ideas freely.55
Further, even though US courts would most likely keep holding that new file-sharing websites that come into existence in the future are infringing copyrights, US courts’ limited jurisdiction presents a significant problem, such as with ThePirateBay.56 A website can be run out of any country in the world, including countries where laws on file-sharing are very relaxed or unenforced. Therefore, if any website gets shut down in a certain jurisdiction, it can move on to another country that has less strict laws. It is a war that will result in endless litigation costing the entertainment industries money that could be spent more efficiently elsewhere in preventing piracy.
Additionally, the RIAA’s lawsuits against the average music consumer have not resulted in the effect the music industry desired. “If industry honchos think they’re going to terrorize people into buying more CDs, they’re crazy.”57 First, suing an insignificant percentage of the tens of millions of people that download illegal music has not induced fear into the general public or deterred the public from piracy.58 Second, trying to sue more people will most likely turn the public against copyright enforcement efforts more and encourage more piracy.59 People need other reasons to follow a law than only fear of punishment.60 Harsh and sometimes unfair lawsuits against the average citizen reflected poorly on the RIAA and the music industry and painted them in a bad light in the eyes of the public. Therefore, the MPAA should stop wasting its time and money on lawsuits against both file-sharing websites and consumer infringers.