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RIAA Accused of Extortion & Conspiracy 373

Posted by Zonk
from the this-is-new-oh-in-court dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The defendant in a Tampa, Florida, case, UMG v. Del Cid, has filed counterclaims accusing the RIAA record labels of conspiracy and extortion. The counterclaims (pdf) are for Trespass, Computer Fraud and Abuse (18 USC 1030), Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices (Fla. Stat. 501.201), Civil Extortion (CA Penal Code 519 & 523), and Civil Conspiracy involving (a) use of private investigators without license in violation of Fla. Stat. Chapter 493; (b) unauthorized access to a protected computer system, in interstate commerce, for the purpose of obtaining information in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1030 (a)(2)(C); (c) extortion in violation of Ca. Penal Code 519 and 523; and (d) knowingly collecting an unlawful consumer debt, and using abus[ive] means to do so, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a et seq. and Fla. Stat. 559.72 et seq."
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RIAA Accused of Extortion & Conspiracy

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  • About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SultanCemil (722533) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:34PM (#19404975)
    You know, its about time this happened - I've been wandering how the RIAA's actions up to this point were any different from Mafia tactics. Pay us "protection money" or we'll sue. Good on 'em.
    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:41PM (#19405037)
      Seconded. Let's hope there are good lawyers committed to taking the entertainment cartel to the cleaners.
      • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:56PM (#19405961)
        Just good lawyers? Screw that, how do we help them? Do they have a donation site setup. Do they need any information to stick it to the RIAA? Someone has balls, let's help them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:50PM (#19405101)
      ...welcome our counterclaim filing peers!
    • by mrbluze (1034940)

      I've been wandering how the RIAA's actions up to this point were any different from Mafia tactics. Pay us "protection money" or we'll sue. Good on 'em.

      And it's no surprise either, since many of the same characters in the RIAA are of the same ilk as the Mafia - perhaps even the direct descendants of Mafia players.

      Sadly, though, it's a business model that too often works and the money made from it dwarfs any fines that are imposed afterwards.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chemicalscum (525689)
      Yes the RIAA protection racket is more like the Mafia than Microsoft's protection racket. Ballmer "You need protection or nasty things could happen to you and your customers, so take this big wad of money and we'll protect you"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mr. Shotgun (832121)

      I've been wondering how the RIAA's actions up to this point were any different from Mafia tactics.
      Simple, the USPS wont let the RIAA send a horse head in conjunction with a subpoena.
    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Eivind (15695) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:26AM (#19407897) Homepage

      It's different because there is an actual law against copyrigth-infringement, and most of the people threathened are actually guilty of breaking that law. Now, this doesn't make it rigth. It just means current copyrigth-law is bad law.

      Copyrigth-law, as currently written, makes everyone a criminal. But only the ones that RIAA (or other large copyrigth-holders) choose to go after, get punished. Which means essentially, that *THEY* are the ones who decide, by criteria dictated by them, who gets punished and who not.

      That's not how it's supposed to work; elected politicians are supposed to decide what is legal and what not. But by deciding that "everything" is illegal, they've efficiently handed the keys over to RIAA et al

      "Everyone" is very sligthly pushing it, but it's not far from the truth. I was at a lecture about IT and law, and the professor asked those people who have ever willingly broken copyrigth-law to raise a hand. Literally 95% of all hands went up. IT-students have more reason and more expertise, so may be sligthly over-represented, but I'm willing to bet that 95% of current 25-year-olds are guilty of breaking copyrigth-law atleast once in the last year.

      We should remove or change laws which we do not intend to uphold. Otherwise we hand over the power of defining de-facto law to those deciding what and whom to investigate. (because if everyone is guilty, by deciding to investigate someone you are de-facto deciding to punish that person)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr. Shotgun (832121)

        but I'm willing to bet that 95% of current 25-year-olds are guilty of breaking copyrigth-law atleast once in the last year.

        I would bet that it is more like 99% if not higher, at least if they had ever attended an outdoor birthday party or grade school. The song "Happy birthday" is purported to still be under copyright and public performances without paying royalties to the ASCAP are a violation of the claimed copyright (ASCAP Title code 380008955). Kinda nice to know that every time a kid sings "Happy birthday" in class, they are committing a crime. Although to be fair, the "smell like a monkey" fair use defense has not been t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)
          We need to send someone to Congress and have them speak when it's someone's birthday. Then we have that guy do a little sing-a-long with all of the congressmen. Get them all to sing their colleague happy birthday.

          Then inform them that they just violated copyright.

          Mebbe then it will sink in.
      • by The Evil Couch (621105) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:54AM (#19409447) Homepage
        copyrigth-infringement ... threathened ... rigth ... copyrigth-law ... Copyrigth-law ... copyrigth-holders ... sligthly ... copyrigth-law ... sligthly ... copyrigth-law

        I don't think I've ever seen someone type with a lisp before.
  • No! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SCPRedMage (838040)
    Extortion? No, not the RIAA, they'd never do that!

    Sarcasm aside, who didn't see this coming?
  • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:35PM (#19404991)
    I wonder if this is referring to the people who get your ip address off of their file sharing programs?

    I do think that this should at least make the RIAA use legal and more robust techniques to win cases.
    • 09 F9 11- Screw it, it's too late to be trendy anyway.

      Well, there's always: 45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B2

  • dont cheer yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:36PM (#19404999) Journal
    dont cheer yet, filing counterclaims is not the same as winning the case agaisnt the RIAA- if and when the RIAA loses THEN you can cheer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Smight (1099639)
      The RIAA's tactics so far have been so far over the line that it's hard to see how they can not be convicted of something.
      • Re:dont cheer yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:03PM (#19405199)
        Oh c'mon, it's not like we ain't seen laws being bought and sold so far, and we've seen laws retroactively making illegal activities legal, why do you think combining them is impossible?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by westlake (615356)
        The RIAA's tactics so far have been so far over the line that it's hard to see how they can not be convicted of something.

        In a civil case you cannot be convicted of anything.

        Shotgun blasts of counter-claims are not necessarily the best way to persuade a judge that your defense has merit... More likely he'll see these pre-trial theatrics as a waste of his time.

        It is part of his job to ruthlessly prune a case back to its essentials.

    • Re:dont cheer yet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wordplay (54438) <> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:03PM (#19405195)
      No, please do cheer. You can't get a victory unless someone fights back, and it has to be someone getting victimized by the RIAA to have real currency. We've gone years now without someone stepping up to the plate, so I would consider this to be a huge step. We've needed this for a long time.
      • by obeythefist (719316) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:00PM (#19405981) Journal
        What happens if the judge determines that the evidence collected by the RIAA in this particular case is sufficient and rules in favour of the cartel?

        It's quite possible from a legal perspective. This would create a precedent that is only going to encourage the RIAA to sue more and more.

        From a moral perspective this is much like seeing a disturbed, criminally insane child accidentally discharge a gun and kill someone, and reward him by giving him an AK-47 in a crowded shopping mall.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by trippeh (1097403)
          Wow. I thought I was the king of off-the-wall analogies. But you've just dethroned me.
          thx gir.
    • Re:dont cheer yet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by epee1221 (873140) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:07PM (#19405235)
      This time, the RIAA can't drop the suit without prejudice as soon as it starts to look like they'll lose.
      • Re:dont cheer yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by metlin (258108) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:01PM (#19405991) Journal

        This time, the RIAA can't drop the suit without prejudice as soon as it starts to look like they'll lose.
        Who says they have to drop the suit? They can settle outside the courts and the defendant who has filed the counter-claim will be offered a large enough sum of money that they can't resist, who will then drop the counter-claim.


        Seen it happen before, will happen again. Gee.
    • Tee hee hee! I know, I know, I just couldn't stop giggling anyway.
    • Re:dont cheer yet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:43PM (#19405531)

      dont cheer yet, filing counterclaims is not the same as winning the case agaisnt the RIAA

      Still, it'll be fun to watch them crap their pants and try to settle with the person for megabucks. If they flinch, their extortion plans are all over, as getting hit with a lawsuit from them will be like winning the lottery.

  • Please... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Richard McBeef (1092673) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:40PM (#19405035)
    If you look at Section 72 paragraph 14, subsection 8 sentence 2 (3f33.v2.7) of the Florida code (version 23.4.2a) you will clearly see that it is superceded by Federal code 4323F.2b4#*R, page 492 subsection B, paragraph 12, sentences 3-7.
    • by Lithdren (605362) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:48PM (#19405089)
      IANAL, but clearly you've never read State Statute H834.b, page 42 subset 11D paragraph 15 sentence 1 (v1.32).

      "This Space Intentionally Left Blank"

      I'd like to see you argue that point.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Wasn't one of the key points of the American legal system originally being able to read and know the law? As in, so you know what you can and can't do? They really do need to reform some of these laws in terms of readability.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        There are way too many ties between the people who write the law and the people who make money knowing the law. Politicans aren't about to put lawyers out of work by making the legal system intelligible to the common citizen. Besides, without ridiculous wording how would they hide the boondoggles?
        • Re:Please... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nomadic (141991) <> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:21PM (#19405367) Homepage
          There are way too many ties between the people who write the law and the people who make money knowing the law. Politicans aren't about to put lawyers out of work by making the legal system intelligible to the common citizen.

          Having non-lawyers write laws will result in really poorly-written laws with plenty of loopholes. The law is like every other specialized field; it develops its own language for a reason.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            So this contorted arcane language is more prescise than simple sentences in common English? This would only be the case if you had judges who ignored the intention of the law and adhered strictly to some strange word game played with the code of law. So... yeah, I guess we do need lawyers to write the law here.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by AvitarX (172628)
              I believe it was Australia where attempts to re-write the tax-code in plain English expande things, not shrunk.

              And writing ambiguous laws and having judges decide the intent is pretty dangerous too.

              Since this thread goes back to mentioning early laws legel system as the standard to achieve I am courious what the intent of each ammendment to the constitution is.
            • Lawyers != Lawmakers (Score:4, Interesting)

              by mr_matticus (928346) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @12:25AM (#19407283)
              Go into any law practice and ask for a show of hands about how many of them hate their state assemblies. You'd be surprised.

              Lawmakers get all red-pen happy when issues pop up because whiny constituents demand that SOMEONE do SOMETHING to keep little Timmy from hearing "shit" on TV, or possibly, after specifically looking up how to accomplish it, have an encounter with a prostitute in a video game. It's not fair to blame legislatures, though, because they are acting in direct response to the public. They want them to write laws. People want callous, superficial, entertaining campaigns. People don't want to deal with real issues, and certainly don't want to take responsibility for themselves. A democracy reflects the people in it; the United States is getting exactly what it wants. But that's a subject for another thread.

              Lawyers hate the absurdity of many laws as written, and hell, even many lawmakers get annoyed at the process. Writing rules by committee is like doing anything else by committee: if there was a creative vision, a coherent drive, or a sense of logic in the beginning, it's gone by the end. This is an inevitable consequence of letting too many people express too many opinions. Dictatorships have the cleanest, clearest laws. They have other downsides.
    • Right, it's really not rocket science. It can't be. Rocket science actually makes sense.

      Though, in a way mafiaa lawsuits and rocket science are related. Both create a whole lot of hot air in an attempt to get a lot inert mass off the ground and both cost a lot of money where you wonder just what is so expensive about them.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:43PM (#19405535)
      clearly see that it is superceded

      I think superseeding is what got that guy in trouble in the first place.

      Hopefully, it will earn him a jury of his peers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:45PM (#19405069)
    Most of the victims just roll over because they can't afford to pay a lawyer. The RIAA doesn't go after people who can defend themselves. On the other hand, if this case and a couple of others are won in court then the RIAA won't be able to use its cheap tactics any more.

    Their supposed expert (actually he is an expert, just not on what he is testifying to) and their investigators only sound good until they are properly challenged. In other words they're only good enough to fool most of the victims and maybe a credulous judge.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by adona1 (1078711)

      Most of the victims just roll over because they can't afford to pay a lawyer

      On the other hand, the odds are that they have pinpointed a fair few people who have downloaded music. I really dislike their tactics (suing customers? Great idea!) and we do like to bring up the 'suing grandmothers/10 year olds/dead people' thing here on /. but it's fair to presume that with the amount of file trading going on, quite a few people that they sue are actually guilty.

      Does the punishment fit the crime? I wouldn't say so, and their machine gun-like attitude to lawsuits is nauseating. But s

      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:41PM (#19405865)
        The answer? Portable HDDs and sharing them around your with your friends :)

        In truth, I think you're right about that. Peer-to-peer served to get massive collections of music into the hands of, well, the masses. Now there are millions upon millions of 50+ Gb private stashes out there. The biggest threat the music industry is facing is the large, portable hard drive ... whether it's in an iPod or not. I mean, in the time it takes to grab a few tunes from Limewire you can jack in a portable USB drive and commit copyright infringement on a Biblical scale.

        Sneakernet isn't dead: it just got bigger guns.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smellsofbikes (890263)
          As one of my friends, who has spent the last ten years fed-ex'ing the largest hard drives he can afford back and forth on a weekly basis with other so-inclined people, often says, "never underestimate the bandwidth of a fed-ex truck full of 500 Gb hard drives."
  • About F'ing Time! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by whisper_jeff (680366)
    Subject says it all.
  • when I think "FUCK YEAH, STICK IT TO THEM". Man I should have fits like that a little more often, it's liberating.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nephilium (684559)

      Perhaps a relevant quote will fit here...

      "Well damn the man Joe... Damn the man."


  • by WombatDeath (681651) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:00PM (#19405173)
    I don't really get it.

    The RIAA waves a piece of paper and says "Look, at 11:28 on March 23rd 2007 Zaphod was making 'Stairway to Heaven' available for downloading on the Bittorrent network".

    Zaphod: "Err, no, I wasn't."

    RIAA: "Yes you did, we have a piece of paper!"

    Zaphod: "Give me ten seconds and I can show you a piece of paper saying anything you like."

    RIAA: "We have database logs and screenshots!"

    Zaphod: "Give me five minutes with a computer and I'll show you database logs and screenshots of anything you like."

    RIAA: "We have bizarrely detailed logs from your ISP showing that we downloaded a file from your computer at 11:29 on March 23rd 2007!."

    Zaphod: "Yes, it was a picture of me buggering your mother."

    RIAA: "..."

    Really, I don't understand why the *AA's 'evidence' in these matters is relevant, let alone compelling. Do they have some sort of infallible tool for proving exactly what files Zaphod had on his computer?
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:07PM (#19405225)
      Well, it hangs on what the judge deems "reasonable proof". If the mafiaa alone produces a log, it's clearly easily forged. If the defendant does, it's the same. When the ISP, a non-aligned party, produces evidence, it usually holds some meaning.
    • Do they have some sort of infallible tool for proving exactly what files Zaphod had on his computer?

      Media Sentry claims they run KaZaA like anyone else would, and therefore find files like anyone else would.

      If so, the Media Sentry computer performing this investigation is an ad-ware/spyware/crap-ware ridden piece of junk that you can't trust for a moment.

    • by epee1221 (873140)

      Do they have some sort of infallible tool for proving exactly what files Zaphod had on his computer?
      Seeing as the countersuit includes Tresspass and Computer Fraud and Abuse, I imagine they have something they used to try to check.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fatalfury (934087)
      Really, I don't understand why the *AA's 'evidence' in these matters is relevant, let alone compelling.

      Most of these cases end up before judges who have no idea how to turn a computer on, much less understand dynamic IP addresses, file-sharing, spyware, adware, wifi hacking, or any of the myriad factors that could provide doubt in a case like this.
      • by Cadallin (863437)
        This is sadly true, but is changing over time. Lawyers were some of the first professionals to deploy computer systems in the 1980's. (I remember, I was there) They were mostly using IBM XT/AT with Wordperfect, to type up legal briefs and such. Those lawyers that were fairly young then (20 years ago) are now approaching the age where the more respected among them get elected to judicial positions (late 40's to 50 or so). A lawyer I know personally was involved in the development/deployment of the first
    • IANAL. In civil cases all the plaintiff has to do is convince the judge that their claims are "probably" true. In a criminal case you have to prove a lot more. As far as I am aware screen shots, log files, etc. aren't considered any real evidence in a criminal case since they are so easily forged, but they are allowed in a civil case.

      Let's say my kids are out playing in my yard and they throw a ball and it breaks a window of your car. If you sued me you wouldn't have to prove they did it, just that it's likely that they did.
  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:08PM (#19405241)
    the RIAArdvark came across a Black Widow... who ate it for lunch. Gulp!
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @07:15PM (#19405313)
    I think these charges, should they have merit might just stop the RIAA in its tracks. At the very least, experts would be far less willing to work on their behalf for fear of a damaged reputation and/or potential jail time. I know that in PA, acting as Private Detective without any kind of bond and licensure is a FELONY. I can't imagine doing so in Florida wouldn't be a crime either. We shall see about the outcome. My guess is that these charges will be whittled down and not much will become of this. I would really like to see this fought to the bitter end.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      "I know that in PA, acting as Private Detective without any kind of bond and licensure is a FELONY. "
      And the define that as....?

      I am sure there is a strict description of who this applies to.

      op, sure enough: []

      huh, what a crappy law. I don't even know how it stands up in court.
      Sure, I wuoldn't hire one that wasn't liscensed or bonded, but that doesn't mean they should have to be bonded.
      Based on the date of the law, I would wager this was created for some union influence.
  • I`m so happy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZDRuX (1010435) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:11PM (#19405713)
    ...that there is still news in this world that is good news for the small people.
  • Someone a couple of RIAA articles back was asking when they'd get bitten back, its good to see the comunity banding together in OSS fashion for a very quick time to market with such a response! ;)

    Seriously though, it would be good to see the RIAA taken to the wall with this. To see them loose 10 or 20 times the amount they've gained from every ligitation they've performed would seem like justice to me, and perhaps it would make them think about whether all the litigation and drm technology is worth it..

    • new US laws. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uolamer (957159) *
      I am all for seeing a criminal trial against the RIAA, but as others have stated its a bit of a "pipe dream" to actually get it.

      my main concern is the RIAA/MPAA getting new laws passed that would be similar to a criminal version of the DMCA. Here in the US it seems you can buy -almost- any law you want, even if it will get overturned by a court later and tore down by organizations like the EFF. It will still be in effect long enough to do quite a bit of damage.

      see: Gonzales proposes new crime: 'Attemp []
  • Grocklaw (Score:3, Interesting)

    by axel2501 (1083451) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:32PM (#19406177)
    I say, why doesnt Grocklaw cover the RIAA cases ? Or even better ! Have an RIAA version of Grocklaw ! I mean, it worked against SCO , Im sure it would work against the RIAA !
  • I could use this whole document and add one more charge. Violation of the DMCA!!! On my home network, every machine is protected by a unique password. The other two machines on the network have been taught the passwords of each machine, but anyone coming in from the outside would be reverse engineering my copy protection, and violating DMCA.

    And while I have a P2P program, it was used to download 4 indie films. Each was burned off to DVD and they are not on my machine anymore!
  • by out of control (37531) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:51PM (#19406661)
    As a Canadian I am always amazed at the abuse of Justice by litigants in the US. It would seem that if you have deep pockets you can defeat justice in the US (OJ). I have long thought that the US Justice system is hugely flawed and the RIAA and their various suits have reinforced my belief.

    This article is a breath of fresh air. It is about time that the small guy takes it to the man.

    The RIAA is a justice bully that is using the flawed system to protect their supposed turf, and has picked on the wrong person yet again.

    The US Supreme court needs to step in and finally smack those bastards to their knees. The RIAA is not protecting the artists or the consumers -- they are a bloated association with ulterior motives that protect nothing other than their own interests and need to be given a severe reality check.

    As a Canadian with different rights -- I will watch in amusement -- the US electorate needs to make this an issue, for fear of having the rest of the US Justice system undermined. The RIAA is way too big for its own britches. I hope they get cut down to the level they should be at (which is merely an association that represents the artists that make the money for the industry). Even the artists that they supposedly represent complain about them.

    So what is wrong with this picture? Come on you Americans -- lobby your congress person on behalf of the artists -- the RIAA is a bully. We don't allow bullying in our schools or our workplaces. Why allow it in your marketplace?
  • by ozzee (612196) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:54PM (#19407093)

    Thing of beauty. One of the few legal documents I can actually read.

    It appears few stones have been left unturned in the counter complaint. It clearly alleges that the RIAA have been using scare tactics to maintain their control on music distribution. The interesting thing is that they have to now prove they didn't. Given that they the big RIAA members have been convicted of collusion in the past, I can't help but see this one becoming a really big nasty mess for them.

    Given the U.S. Justice system runs slower than treacle, don't expect the RIAA to be pulled through the coals for a while.

  • Ironicly (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:50AM (#19408007) Homepage
    Ironicly, our NFL team here in Tampa Bay is the Buccaneers... []

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead