The Butler Did It: She fought the law and she won

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The second was from Pepsi, inviting her to a casting call for a commercial that was scheduled to air during the Super Bowl.

Her family settled the suit and she appeared on the commercial that was seen by about 140 million people nationwide.

And to think, this was all over downloading Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent.

Braunstein was guilty of doing what millions of others have done and continue to do - she downloaded music. She estimates she had about 850 songs from numerous artists, old school, new school and everything in between.

It's a cliché to say it, but everyone does it.

To me, it's the ultimate victimless crime. And, yeah, the recording industry can bitch and moan about the millions of dollars it allegedly loses when the Mary Braunsteins of the world download a few four-minute songs, but the last time I checked, Coldplay, Metallica and Nelly weren't starving.

I can sympathize with Braunstein. Back when Napster was king, I was one of the first - at least that I was aware of - to be banned from the file-sharing giant.

The e-mail I received said something about a lawsuit from the widow of Roy Orbison and claimed I downloaded a number of his songs.

Since it was not true - nothing against Orbison or his widow, but I was more into getting live Dave Matthews Band songs, which Dave himself fully endorsed - I finagled my way back onto the service before it was ultimately shut down.

After two agonizing months when the Braunsteins were essentially forced to settle, since lawyer and court fees would likely far surpass the $3,200 they forked over, they received a letter from Pepsi on Christmas Eve.

Braunstein was invited to a casting call in Manhattan and was then flown to Los Angeles to film the commercial. She missed a surprise 17th birthday party her friends threw for her - they had it anyway - while she was enjoying an all-expenses-paid trip to the left coast.

"It was really cool. We got to dress up. We went to wardrobe," said Braunstein, who admittedly switched from Coke to Pepsi after she received the letter. "It was so weird, but it was so cool."

The 45-second commercial featured 18 teenagers who were prosecuted for illegally downloading music. Green Day's version of "I Fought the Law," played during the promotion in which Pepsi, along with iTunes, legally gives away 100 million songs.

Braunstein appeared twice in the final 10 seconds of the spot, first in a group of five girls lifting up a bottle of Pepsi and then laughing in a close-up. Pepsi paid more than $2.25 million to air the commercial during the Super Bowl.

"A lot of people who I haven't talked to in so long called me during the Super Bowl and said, 'I think I just saw you on TV,'" she said.

Braunstein is the youngest of Ed and Mary Braunstein's three children, the lone girl. Like her brothers, Ed and Michael, she took up sports. After running track and playing soccer as a freshman and playing both soccer and softball as a sophomore, Braunstein decided to dedicate all her time to softball this year.

Braunstein is one of the better players on a very good Molloy softball team. But to many she will be the blonde girl from the Pepsi commercial.

Her life hasn't changed that much since her 45 seconds of fame. Yes, every now and again she can be found sitting on her bed opening royalty checks, but Mary Braunstein still attends class at Molloy, and she still plays softball.

But, no, she doesn't illegally download music anymore.

"No more of that," she said.

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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