- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

Move over, college kids. Grandparents and roommates may be the first ones to pay for downloading songs on the Internet.

The music industry’s earliest subpoenas, issued as part of a high-stakes campaign to cripple online piracy by suing some of music’s biggest fans, are aimed at a surprisingly eclectic group: a grandfather, an unsuspecting dad and an apartment roommate.

“Within five minutes, if I can get hold of her, this will come to an end,” said Gordon Pate of Dana Point, Calif., when told by the Associated Press that a federal subpoena had been issued regarding his daughter’s music downloads.

The legal papers required an Internet provider, Comcast Cable Communications Inc., to hand over Mr. Pate’s name and address.

Mr. Pate, 67, confirmed that his 23-year-old daughter, Leah Pate, had installed file-sharing software using an account cited on the subpoena. But he said his daughter would stop immediately and the family did not know using such software could result in a stern warning, expensive lawsuit or even criminal prosecution.

“There’s no way either us or our daughter would do anything we knew to be illegal,” Mr. Pate said, promising to remove the software quickly. “I don’t think anybody knew this was illegal, just a way to get some music.”

The president of the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the largest music labels, said lawyers will pursue downloaders regardless of personal circumstances because it would deter other Internet users.

“The idea really is not to be selective, to let people know that if they’re offering a substantial number of files for others to copy, they are at risk,” Cary Sherman said. “It doesn’t matter who they are.”

Bob Barnes, a 50-year-old grandfather in Fresno, Calif., and the target of a subpoena, acknowledged sharing “several hundred” music files. He said he used the Internet to download hard-to-find recordings of European artists because he was unsatisfied with modern American artists and grew tired of buying CDs without the chance to listen to them first.

The association has issued at least 911 subpoenas so far, according to court records. Lawyers have said they expect to file at least several hundred lawsuits within eight weeks, and copyright laws allow for damages of $750 to $150,000 for each song.

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