So, for anyone who does not know, the RIAA has been running around trying to sue everyone for downloading music. Now, aside from the fact that they are charging inordinately high amounts for downloading a few measly tracks, they have sued dead people and have attempted to go after 12 year olds, thus far at least their crusade of lawsuits has been somewhat legitimate.
More recently however, they have decided that the price of all of those lawsuits is too much. Obviously however, they would not want to do without the revenue brought in by their legal war mongering. This dilemma caused some executive at RIAA headquarters to come up with the nefarious idea of essentially trying to force money out of people for protection. They are now approaching ISP's directly with letters asking people to give them $1000 as a settlement instead of actually going to court or even going through the settlement process.
Now, what they conveniently decide not to mention is that this would waive their LEGAL RIGHT to a court decision. They also have been close lipped about the fact that every RIAA suit that has actually gone to trial has been DISMISSED due to lack of evidence. In fact, I would venture that the unstable and less than reliable nature of these suits is exactly the reason for this new policy. The $1000 "settlement" (read protection) money is a much easier way to get money from a large number of people. It has worked well for the Mafia for years, so obviously the RIAA decided it was a tactic with some merit.
This is just one more example of the ludicrously of this system, and one more reason why piracy will flourish in opposition to it.