RIAA Targets Parents in Music Downloading Lawsuits

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, September 9, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Vonnie Bassett has never downloaded a song off the Internet in her entire life. Her son, however, has hundreds of times. But Vonnie is the one being sued by the Recording Industry of America (search). The trade group filed suit against 261 Internet users yesterday because their accounts were used to swap songs for free without paying for them.

Vonnie Bassett (search) now joins me from San Francisco.

Bonnie, that's today's big question: What is your defense against the records industry lawsuit?

VONNIE BASSETT, SUED BY RECORDING INDUSTRY: Well, I just think the site of Kazaa (search), that you can go on there and that it's a peer-to-peer site and you don't have a choice for it to be something else — and that's what they said was illegal. That's the illegal part of it.

But the site itself doesn't give you a choice to do anything different. So, I don't understand why it gets to stay open and everything — once you go in there, it becomes peer-to-peer. And to me, it should be shut down, because it's not a legal operation once you go into the site.

GIBSON: Yes. And I'm sure they're laughing all the way to the bank, because they left you holding the bag.


GIBSON: Now, how old is your son?

BASSETT: My son is 17 and my daughter is 15.

GIBSON: Had you ever discussed with your son the issue of free downloading?

BASSETT: Yes. We actually did, because we live here in the Bay area. We live actually right in town, right next to where Napster (search) was. And they got shut down because they were illegal. And it wasn't shortly after that happened when these other places opened up. And I said, “Wow, so this is fine? I think so,” you know?

So we go on it and then Napster gets closed down. And to me, there was nothing — if Kazaa was illegal, it would have been closed down, too.

GIBSON: Yes. Well, it's not. The illegality is being passed on to the users. But you read the newspapers.


GIBSON: There's been notice for some time that free downloaders are going to get sued.

BASSETT: Well, yes.

I do listen to the news and all that. But I never use that stuff myself. I have a separate computer in my house for my business and my bills. And so I really have never really paid too much attention to it, because I have never used it. I've never used it at all.

GIBSON: But the theory of the suit, since they're suing you, is, you have a juvenile...


GIBSON: ... who has no assets, can't be sued and you're the responsible parent.


GIBSON: And they're just kind of sticking you with it, correct?

BASSETT: Sure. They are.

GIBSON: Now, have they at least said to you, “Look, Vonnie, your son downloaded 1,000 songs; they're 50 cents a piece; pay us this amount of money and the suit goes away?”

BASSETT: No, they haven't said anything.

I actually have not been even served. I was only contacted yesterday by The New York Times and three other papers. And that's how I know. And then now, today, my name is actually in The Chronicle as someone that is being sued.

GIBSON: So what do you think of this? I mean, I'm sure you look like a good, honest person who would never go into a Tower Records store and just steal the CDs.

BASSETT: Absolutely not.

GIBSON: Absolutely not.

But here we have this situation where the kids are, in effect, stealing this music. You can call it downloading all you want, but they're stealing it.

BASSETT: Right. Right.

GIBSON: And you are being held responsible for it. What are you willing to do with the recording industry to say: "Okay, I get it. I should have been watching my son more closely? What do you want? I want this to go away"?

BASSETT: I don't really know.

I haven't gotten that far, because I really feel like we're just being kind of the scapegoat here.

GIBSON: Yes, you are.

BASSETT: And it's about money.

GIBSON: No, you're being made an example of to try to discourage other parents and other kids.

BASSETT: Right. I think, if the record industry could try to work with these sharing-file places like Kazaa and all that, they could get paid. They could make money. They could work together. The Internet is not going to go away. It is just going to get more and more advanced.

GIBSON: I know. Vonnie, they have already set up these scenes. You pay 79 cents a song and you don't have these problems. Vonnie Bassett, good luck. I hate to see you being made an example of. Best of luck in this fight against the record industry. Appreciate it.

BASSETT: Thank you.

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