The four students that were sued for hundreds of millions by the RIAA, have settled with the industry group for sums between $12,000 and $16,000 each, to be paid in installments over the next 4 years.
For many of us who make electronic works (be it music, software, or other products) for a living, this decision is greeted with some mixed emotions.
On one hand, the students need to be taken to task for violating the rights of the authors of the music that they chose to share in this manner. In this case, these folks didn't use Napster or Grokster or any of those packages, instead they appear to have created some kind of Google-like search engine for the computers on campus to ferret out tunes on computers with or without the software.
On another hand, giving the RIAA any kind of victory that might lead them to believing that their stance on the way that music is sold is in some way Right, is not something that many of us warm up to.
In the end, there are those of us who feel that the record industry has reached the end of its useful days. There is little reason for an industry that provides little benefit to the artists to rake in most of the profits, while the consumers pay high prices and the artists receive relatively little for their work. But, that's an issue for another rant.
Probably the best thing about this settlement is that it is a settlement, and thus, from a legal standpoint, creates no precedent. We are going to have to wait some more before we see how the legal system deals with people who steal from those who are bilking the public.