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Cybersecurity

Does She Look Like a Music Pirate?

Inside Tanya Andersen's private war with the recording industry. Hint: She's winning
Andersen got the piracy case against her dropped; now she's going after the RIAA for conspiracy
Andersen got the piracy case against her dropped; now she's going after the RIAA for conspiracy Brian Smale

When Tanya Andersen opens the door to her modest apartment in suburban Portland, Ore., her Maltese-terrier mix, Tazz, runs over and wags his tail in a friendly hello. The 45-year-old single mother doesn't seem like much of a fighter. She spends most of her days sitting on an overstuffed sofa with a heating pad behind her back to ease chronic pain and migraines that have kept her on disability for nearly five years. Her voice is soft and halting. Yet this woman is behind a fierce assault on the music industry and its tactics for combating music piracy on the Internet. "I've just got to keep doing what I believe is right," she says, with Tazz curled up next to her on the couch. "And that's fighting and letting people know what's happening."

After being sued by the music industry for stealing songs and winning the case's dismissal, Andersen is now taking the record industry to court. Her case is aimed at exposing investigative practices that are controversial and may be illegal, according to the lawsuit. One company hired by the record industry, she claims, snoops through people's computers, uncovering private files and photos, even though it has no legal right to do so. A different industry-backed company uses tactics similar to those of debt collectors, pressuring people to pay thousands of dollars in settlements even before any wrongdoing is proven. In Andersen's case, the industry's Settlement Support Center said that unless she paid $4,000 to $5,000 immediately, it would "ruin her financially," the suit alleges.