Recently, it was all over the news that a woman was fined $1.9 million for illegally downloading 24 songs. Which is of course a miscarriage of justice, an outrage, crazy, appalling, whatever you want to call it.
In reality, the RIAA and related groups have mostly stopped suing people ... part of my day job is processing the big scary cease-and-desist emails they send to the university I work for. The emails include dates, times, IP addresses, files shared, etc. My job is to identify which sysadmin is responsible for the network the illegal filesharing incident occurred on, and to send the notes along to him or her. If the infraction involved our wireless network, I figure out who the student was and forward the messages along directly (and then deal with the panicky/angry emails the student sends back).
We get dozens of RIAA/movie studio notices each day, and have been for over a year ... I'm not aware of a lawsuit having emerged from any of them.
Mostly, the companies want to scare people into not illegally sharing/downloading movies and songs etc. -- so the occasional highly-publicized, wildly-expensive lawsuit fits into that scheme -- but in general they're not going after little fish other than to send warnings.
Occasionally, of course, a filesharer gets unlucky ... I don't fileshare myself for a variety of reasons, and one of them is certainly because I don't want to "win" the lawsuit lottery when it's easy enough to get music and movies legitimately.
The need for tort reform and the need to disengage our legal system from corporate influences aside, here's my public service announcement:
If you're going to share files on a traceable server, share the good stuff (ie, not stuff you could've scored for 50 cents from a neighborhood garage sale). Don't be like all these students I've seen who got dinged over filesharing "My Humps". There's just no dignity in that.