(Wired) A second person claims the recording industry has wrongly accused him of illegally sharing songs. Ross Plank, a software engineer from Playa del Rey, California, said that the Recording Industry Association of America mistakenly targeted him when it unleashed 261 lawsuits against alleged music swappers.
“It seems like they got me mixed up with someone else,” said Plank, who runs a small business, siteNurturing.com, out of his home. “It really seems ludicrous. It’s pretty obvious that this is not something that I would do anyway.”
The RIAA already has taken heat for incorrectly naming 65-year-old Sarah Ward, an artist, teacher and grandmother, as a music pirate. Ward was accused of sharing songs using Kazaa, but the software is only available to PC users, and she uses a Mac. The music trade group dropped the suit.
“We are confident in our evidence-collection process but to the extent that someone claims that we’ve erred, we will investigate the matter,” said Amanda Collins, an RIAA spokeswoman.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, copyright owners need only get the signature of a district court clerk in order to subpoena Internet service providers for the names and addresses associated with a customer’s IP address.
The RIAA, which represents the five major music labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music, BMG, EMI and Warner Music — has used this DMCA provision to collect the personal information of more than 1,500 alleged file swappers. The group has said that it plans to file hundreds more lawsuits.
Plank said the RIAA has the wrong IP address. The suit lists a Kazaa user name and he doesn’t use Kazaa on his machine. Plus he didn’t recognize the bulk of the songs he’s accused of sharing. Most of the songs are Spanish-language Latin music.
Plank has a roommate who shares his Internet connection, but he rarely uses the computer.
Plank said he received a note from his ISP, Comcast, alerting him that his identity was being sought by the RIAA, but since the IP address and Kazaa name were not his, he chucked the notice into the garbage.
The legal mess has created stress for Plank and other family members.
“I’m trying to operate an Internet consulting business, and I’m planning for a wedding, and this is not something I need to have happen at this time,” Plank said.
Plank also blasted the music industry for “scare tactics that would be used by people in the mob.”
“If a large organization such as the recording industry with lots of high-paid attorneys comes after you, anyone is going to be frightened, whether you have done anything or not,” Plank said.
Comcast spokeswoman Sarah Eder said she could not comment on specific customers because of strict privacy rules at the company, but said, “We will comply with a subpoena in situations in which we are legally bound and when the request meets specific legal criteria.”
“We’re very meticulous and we review them very carefully,” Eder said. “We’re looking into it.”
Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing Plank, said the RIAA should dismiss the case and apologize.
“The way they have conducted their campaign makes such mistakes inevitable,” Cohn said. “The collateral damage is mounting now.”
Cohn said the RIAA could make “a pile of money” if it would offer blanket licenses to consumers, instead of slapping them with lawsuits.
“They have in their hands the tools to solve their piracy problem,” Cohn said. “They are just refusing to use them.”
Like others who have been the target of the recording industry’s wrath, Plank, his fiancee and their friends and family have pledged not to buy any more CDs, though his soon-to-be-wife desperately wants the new Sting album.
“I think we’re going to stick to the radio,” he said.