> file-sharing. It's what the techies call "FUD" when they talk about
> Microsoft: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Plus, they understand that the
> average person will panic when faced with the threat of a lawsuit. The
> RIAA's strategy would be toast if the people they sue just laughed them
Unless you have virtually no assets -- thereby making your 'judgment proof' -- It would be incredibly foolish to laugh the RIAA away if they sued you. If you don't respond to a lawsuit, the court will enter a default judgment against you; probably for everything the plaintiff is asking for. After that, depending on the rules of the jurisdiction you live in, the plaintiff can put leins on any real property you own, garnish wages -- even have the sheriff seize personal property. Sure, there are a surprising number of people in the U.S. who are so asset-poor that they are literally beyond the reach of the civil side of American law. Chances are though, if you have the resources to do the stuff that could expose you to a lawsuit by the RIAA, your life stands to be really fucked up if you ignore their lawyers.
I think the RIAA lawsuits did scare people out of a lot of obviously-illegal file sharing. The problem is, to the extent that most people under 30 comply with the law, it is only because they *have* to -- not because they feel obliged to. As such, small scale piracy that isn't Internet-based file sharing (e.g. burning copies of CDs or DVDs for friends, etc.) is seen as perfectly acceptable amongst everyone I know in his/her 20s -- as it should be. If/when a viable technology emerges that allows people to trade media over the Internet with a sufficient level of anonymity, the floodgates of file-sharing will open even more than they are now.