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By SONI SANGHA and PHYLLIS FURMAN DAILY NEWS WRITERS
A shy Manhattan schoolgirl who gets a kick out of nursery songs and TV themes was among 261 people sued yesterday for downloading music from the Internet.
Brianna LaHara, a curly-haired 12-year-old honor student who started seventh grade yesterday at St. Gregory the Great Catholic school on W. 90th St., couldn't believe she's one of the "major offenders" the music moguls are after.
"Oh, my God, what's going to happen now?" she asked after hearing of the suit. "My stomach is all in knots."
Told she may have to go to court, Brianna's eyes widened behind wire-rimmed glasses and she said, "I'm just shocked that of all the people that do this, I'm on the list."
The Recording Industry Association of America (news - web sites) said the suits filed yesterday included about 60 that targeted suspects in New York who downloaded more than 1,000 songs.
The group blames computer users such as Brianna, who use software programs to trade music with others on the Internet, for a 30% drop in music sales.
Each person sued yesterday could be liable for fines up to $150,000 for each poached track.
Experts had predicted a large number of the suits likely would name youngsters.
"Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation, but when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action," said Carey Sherman, president of the recording association.
Sherman warned that the group may file thousands more lawsuits against people who use programs like KaZaA, Grokster, Gnutella (news - web sites), Blubster and iMesh.
Brianna's mother, Sylvia, 40, director of a nurse placement agency, said her daughter was helping her 9-year-old brother with his homework when the Daily News arrived at their apartment on W. 84th St. with word about the suit.
"For crying out loud, she's just a child," the mother said. "This isn't like those people who say, 'My son is a good boy,' and he's holding a bloody knife. All we did was use a service."
The mother said she signed up for KaZaA, paying a $29.95 fee. "If you're paying for it, you're not stealing it, so what is this all about?" she asked.
She said Brianna downloaded music by Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, along with the themes to television shows like "Family Matters" and "Full House" - and even the nursery song, "If You're Happy and You Know It."
"That's really threatening to the music industry," she scoffed.
"If this was something we were profiting from, that's one thing. But we were just listening and sometimes dancing to the music," said the mother.
She vowed to get a lawyer to fight the suit, which she termed "ridiculous."
Girl, 12, Settles Piracy Suit for $2,000 Tue Sep 9, 7:19 PM ET
By TED BRIDIS, AP Technology Writer
WASHINGTON - A 12-year-old girl in New York who was among the first to be sued by the record industry for sharing music over the Internet is off the hook after her mother agreed Tuesday to pay $2,000 to settle the lawsuit, apologizing and admitting that her daughter's actions violated U.S. copyright laws.
The hurried settlement involving Brianna LaHara, an honors student, was the first announced one day after the Recording Industry Association of America (news - web sites) filed 261 such lawsuits across the country. Lawyers for the RIAA said Brianna's mother, Sylvia Torres, contacted them early Tuesday to negotiate.
"We understand now that file-sharing the music was illegal," Torres said in a statement distributed by the recording industry. "You can be sure Brianna won't be doing it anymore."
Brianna added: "I am sorry for what I have done. I love music and don't want to hurt the artists I love."
The case against Brianna was a potential minefield for the music industry from a public relations standpoint. The family lives in a city housing project on New York's Upper West Side, and they said they mistakenly believed they were entitled to download music over the Internet because they had paid $29.99 for software that gives them access to online file-sharing services.
Even in the hours before the settlement was announced, Brianna was emerging as an example of what critics said was overzealous enforcement by the powerful music industry.
The top lawyer for Verizon Communications Inc. charged earlier Tuesday during a Senate hearing that music lawyers had resorted to a "campaign against 12-year-old girls" rather than trying to help consumers turn to legal sources for songs online. Verizon's Internet subsidiary is engaged in a protracted legal fight against the RIAA over copyright subpoenas sent Verizon customers.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also alluded to Brianna's case.
"Are you headed to junior high schools to round up the usual suspects?" Durbin asked RIAA President Cary Sherman during a Senate Judiciary hearing.
Durbin said he appreciated the piracy threat to the recording industry, but added, "I think you have a tough public relations campaign to go after the offenders without appearing heavy-handed in the process."
Sherman responded that most people don't shoplift because they fear they'll be arrested.
"We're trying to let people know they may get caught, therefore they should not engage in this behavior," Sherman said. "Yes, there are going to be some kids caught in this, but you'd be surprised at how many adults are engaged in this activity."