WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – After battling a suburban family for four years over music downloads, the recording industry has agreed to accept $7,000 — paid in installments — to settle its federal piracy lawsuit.
If approved by a judge, the settlement will end a well-publicized tussle that began with five record companies accusing Patricia Santangelo, a mother of five, of illegally downloading and distributing music.
Santangelo, 46, of Wappingers Falls, said she couldn't have downloaded anything because she didn't know how.
At one point during the lawsuit, which alleged the use of file-sharing computer networks, a federal judge described Santangelo as an "Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo."
Santangelo, one of thousands of people sued in the Recording Industry Association of America's anti-piracy campaign, refused to settle.
Instead, she took her case to national news outlets and became a heroine to supporters of online freedom. An Internet campaign raised about $15,000 for her defense.
Her lawyer, Jordan Glass, said Monday that the industry "didn't expect someone like Patti to fight back. ... She was up against billions of dollars of corporate power. They had the money, they had the legal intellect, they had the experience, they had everything. She had nothing."
The industry eventually dropped its suit against the mother. But it filed a new one against two of her children, Michelle and Robert, ages 20 and 16 at the time.
The new lawsuit alleged the youths had downloaded and distributed more than 1,000 songs, including "MMMBop" by Hanson and "Beat It" by Michael Jackson.
It said that Michelle had admitted piracy in a deposition and that Robert had been implicated by a family friend. They denied wrongdoing.
Under the terms of the settlement, filed in court in White Plains late Friday, the Santangelos will pay $7,000. They paid half the amount April 20 and are to make six payments of $583.33 by October.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Santangelos," Cara Duckworth, spokeswoman for the RIAA, said in an e-mailed statement.
Asked how much had been spent to win the $7,000 settlement, and whether it was a victory, she said, "We don't break out costs per case, and it's not a question of it being 'worth it' or a 'victory."'
She said the lawsuit had succeeded in showing that breaking the law has consequences and in steering music fans toward legal online services "that fairly compensate musicians and labels."
Glass pointed out that the Santangelos never admitted wrongdoing, and that with both Santangelo children now in college, the settlement offer was accepted to control costs.
"This was preventing the kids from moving on," he said. "Sometimes you reduce the damages so much it's time to call it quits."
Most of the file-sharing networks that were used for downloading and distributing music have been forced out of the business.