Does this case have longer term implications for music sharers? Does this send a message to people who think that they will not get caught? The Recording Industry Association of America is concerned not only with illegal downloading, but also with protection of intellectual property worldwide. The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus put together a 2009 Caucus "Watch List" of countries with serious copyright piracy that includes China, Russia, Canada, Spain and Mexico. Surely, in tough economic times, all business sectors are more apt to "circle the wagons" to protect their income stream to the greatest extent possible. Copyright violations have been a hot spot for some time now, with many believing that it is not stealing at or at least not bad stealing.
There seem to be two possible outcomes. First, lack of protection may stifle creativity and innovation resulting in fewer works because there is not sufficient money to be made. That is, artists may just decide to do something else. Second, the cost paid for copyrighted materials by those who pay rather than download at "no cost" may increase to subsidize the "free riders" such as Thomas-Rasset. Like any regulatory system, there must be a sufficient enforcement mechanism to catch those who violate the rules or least substantially violate the rules. So long as consumers believe that there is no likely penalty for illegal downloads and piracy, the RIAA will have a busy time litigating.