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Granny Sues RIAA Over Unlicensed Investigator 206

Posted by kdawson
from the more-ways-to-hit-them-back dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "An elderly, non-file-sharing grandmother from East Texas, who had been sued by the RIAA after being displaced by Hurricane Rita, has sought leave to file counterclaims against the RIAA record companies for using unlicensed investigators. In her counterclaims (PDF) Ms. Crain claims that the record companies 'entered into an agreement with a private investigations company to provide investigative services which led to the production of evidence to be used in court against counterclaim plaintiff, including the identification of an IP address on the basis of which counterclaim defendants filed their suit... [They] were at the time of this agreement aware that the aforementioned private investigations company was unlicensed to conduct investigations in the State of Texas specifically, and in other states as well... [T]hey agreed between themselves and understood that unlicensed and unlawful investigations would take place in order to provide evidence for this lawsuit, as well as thousands of others as part of a mass litigation campaign... [T]he private investigations company hired by plaintiffs engaged in one or more overt acts of unlawful private investigation... Such actions constitute civil conspiracy under Texas common law.'"
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Granny Sues RIAA Over Unlicensed Investigator

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  • by CorSci81 (1007499) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @08:53PM (#19738253) Journal
    Wrong Pasadena, I know, but... still.
  • ...when they are working for the good guys. Nice to see that the RIAA is finally being challenged, not on the slashdot message boards amongst the powerless, but in the courts amongst the layers.
    • by CorSci81 (1007499) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:07PM (#19738381) Journal

      courts amongst the layers
      Layers? Of cake? And do they have creamy filling?
    • I'd rather have no lawyers than try figure out which are the black hat and white hat laywers.
      • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rgmoore (133276) <glandauer@charter.net> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @10:02PM (#19738795) Homepage

        Lawyers aren't the real problem, and getting rid of them isn't a solution. The underlying problem is that some people are anti-social jerks who have discovered that they can get their way by bullying others. Under our current system, the jerks hire lawyers to do their bullying for them. If you eliminate the lawyers, the jerks will just find a new set of bullies to do their dirty work.

        The real solution is to give ordinary, decent people a way of striking back when the bullies get on their case. Counter-suits, like the one mentioned in this article, are a good way of doing that. If everyone who was wrongly accused by the RIAA decided to launch a nasty counter-suit rather than caving in, the litigation strategy would grind to a halt- or at least focus on the worst, most obvious real offenders rather than people chosen at random.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by G-funk (22712)
          The problem isn't the RIAA going around sueing innocent people (well not the big problem), the problem is corporate interests buying never-ending copyright and increasingly stricter punishments for doing anything that might possibly be used to violate said purchased perpetual copyright. The question becomes, what the bejesus can those of us who care (the nerdy minority) do?
          • Re:Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

            by advocate_one (662832) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:18AM (#19741901)
            your signature is backwards...

            should read:


            "My right to walk the streets unmolested by the police outweighs your right not to get blown up."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)
        Lawyers are like guns. They're not good or evil by themselves, whether they are depends on how you use them. Just because most use them for evil doesn't mean that the lawyers themselves are.

        Sure, there are the crooks that jump in joy every time they found a loophole in a law so they can milk some unsuspecting victim and basically collect protection money, due to his victim not understanding the law. They're basically the legal (as in "law world" not as in "allowed") equivalent of malware writers. Using the
    • by Anonymous Coward
      when they're supplying your side.

      But of course they're supplying the other side as well, and making a profit from all conflict.

      The US is in the crappy state it's in because of lawyers. The fact that that granny's lawyer happens to be fighting an evil cartel of blood-sucking music industry parasites sounds nice, but it's just business as usual for a profession predicated on causing misery so that they can defend against it.
      • by isaac (2852)

        The US is in the crappy state it's in because of lawyers.


        That seems dubious to me. If this were Somalia or Russia, there'd be no lawyers involved because granny would have been gunned down on the sidewalk.

        The legal system might too often be a tool of oppression against the powerless, but it sure beats the other kind of oppression. You know, the kind with bullets.

        -Isaac

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          thats rubbish. america wasn't anything like russia or somalia 50 years ago and it didn't have so much insane litigation either. your just pointing out extreme's, it doesn't mean we should be putting up with this ligigation happy bullshit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417)
          Well, the examples you cite don't lack lawyers, they lack laws. Or rather, they lack people caring about the laws. Because the laws that exist are not for, but against the people.

          And basically, to turn your argument back at you, this can and possibly will happen to the US as well if more and more laws made against instead of for the people enter the legal system. Sooner or later people will not be able anymore to see laws as rules made to protect them. They see them as oppressive tools used against them. An
  • Every other day (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dunezone (899268) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:01PM (#19738343) Journal
    It seems like every other day we either find out that the RIAA used some illegal practice or lost a case against a so called music pirate though they keep dishing out lawsuits. The RIAA train has derailed but it doesn't seem to be slowing any time soon.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, every other day we hear of some crackpot motion to dismiss or lawsuits under RICO etc. which have approximatly zero chance of success. If slashdot only reported on actual rulings, there'd be a lot less. Like that case that's been up at least half a dozen time where they started suing the mother, found out it was the daughter, went on to sue her and finally dropped the charges against the mother. Reported like a huge win on slashdot, when it did pretty much nothing good for the family. I think they were
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I would be interested in seeing the stats you are describing. Is there a site you can link where they are compiled? You are correct in pointing out the flawed nature of only going by the anecdotal evidence. I just wish you hadn't dumbed down your message with your pissy attitude and tone -- it makes it more likely that your thoughts will get lost in the noise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rgmoore (133276)

      It seems like every other day we either find out that the RIAA used some illegal practice or lost a case against a so called music pirate though they keep dishing out lawsuits. The RIAA train has derailed but it doesn't seem to be slowing any time soon.

      You only hear about the people striking back because they're the rare counter-example. You don't hear about the thousands and thousands of people who settle to get the lawyers off their backs.

      The RIAA train hasn't derailed. The function of the lawsuits isn't to make money. The goal is to scare people away from file sharing and back into the music store, either bricks and mortar or online. As long as the lawsuits stop the bleeding from file sharing, they only have to break even, or just avoid losing

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MacWiz (665750)
        The RIAA train hasn't derailed.

        Really? Did they take someone to trial and win today?

        The function of the lawsuits isn't to make money. The goal is to scare people away from file sharing and back into the music store, either bricks and mortar or online.

        They're doing a bang-up job there, too. Tower Records says "Thanks" for the extra traffic.
      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        The goal is to scare people away from file sharing [...]

        Well, they convinced me: I have purchased enough CDs over the years to listen for months without hearing a repeat. Nowadays the only CDs I purchase are from local acts, to help support them. Plus, it's nice to talk to the artist and be appreciated, rather than "another face in the crowd of 50,000" at a stadium as they're whisked away by their security.

        What's amusing is that Metallica was Napster's biggest "advertiser" back in the mid-90s.

        Perha

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417)
          Well, I guess I must be aging too.

          When I was "young" (read: under 25), music was my love. Well, besides computers. I have a few hundred CDs. But for almost 10 years now, I didn't buy a single one. Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe I just can't stomach the cover versions of "my" songs, dunno.

          Back then, there also wasn't much that competed with CDs for my money. Fashion would've been the only other thing to waste money on, and I've never been the fashion geek. So all my spending money went into music.

          Today, a l
  • Good, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adona1 (1078711) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:07PM (#19738387)
    I'm happy for the RIAA to get anything and everything that's coming to them, but I don't think it will change their litigation-happy behaviour at all. The problem is that the RIAA is just a faceless body representing the big labels, and until people start bitching about Sony, Universal Music, EMI etc, then what does the RIAA care if people hate them? They're not selling the products, they exist solely as a trade group [wikipedia.org], and if they take all the flak that rightfully belongs to the labels, they'll still do it.

    It's the puppeteers, not the puppet, that needs to be demonized.
    • by Aussie (10167)
      The record companies are Pierson's Puppeteers [wikipedia.org] ?
      Well that explains a lot.
      • by arivanov (12034)
        No, more likely Puppeteers from "The Puppet Masters" by Robert A. Heinlein.
        • by Aussie (10167)
          Yeah, you're right. Pierson's Puppeteers have some redeeming qualities, while Heinlein's are just plain evil :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phorm (591458)
      They will if the courts start costing them big-time money (more than they do already). OK, so they're getting $3000 settlements. How much are they paying their pack of lawyers per hour? I bet it's a lot, so even the profit from that might be small.

      Start having a bunch of people hitting back. Lawyers in court == more lost money. Start having them losing cases for big money == more lost money. Start having the courts perhaps decide that they lose the rights to press suites in regards to the material they're
      • Unless, of course, the RIAA is run by lawyers for lawyers. Kinda like the US Congress.

        Then they will continue to suck at the teat of the member companies for time immemorial!!!
    • Re:Good, but... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Courageous (228506) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @10:34PM (#19739085)
      I'm happy for the RIAA to get anything and everything that's coming to them, but I don't think it will change their litigation-happy behaviour at all.

      Depends on the findings. There was a case that came up just recently where the RIAA is being accused of both federal and state RICO charges as well as quite a number of other things. While this is only a civil case, these are criminal charges. If the findings go to the plaintiff on some of the more serious charges, and were the RIAA not to reform itself, the remedies in a follow-on case from any other party could be quite severe indeed.

      C//
    • Amen!!!!! Imagine one week if Sony sold absolutely nothing across the whole US. Ouch! They'd freak out, and Howard Stringer's head would be served to shareholders on a platter. Hey, you don't even need to boycott them all. Pick them off one by one. Causes division in the ranks: While one suffers the others shrug.

      In the past consumer boycotts have rarely if ever worked, because most consumers either don't know or don't care, or think what's the use. So form a message and target it. Spread it on Myspace and Y
      • by coats (1068)
        Making this problem worse is this: They've so captured the law as to make it illegal to promote boycotts! How this passes a First-Amendment test is beyond me, but I don't have enough cash to fight it.

        fwiw.

    • It's the puppeteers, not the puppet, that needs to be demonized.

      I'm betting that most people reading this thread know exactly which companies are responsible. As I work in a local PC shop, I get a chance to steer lots of people clear of all sorts of Sony products, and tell them who else is going after people {Warner is another good target.} The best thing we all can do is inform everyone around us, non-technical types [especially] included.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      The problem is that the RIAA is just a faceless body representing the big labels, and until people start bitching about Sony, Universal Music, EMI etc, then what does the RIAA care if people hate them?

      Can I ask everybody to stop repeating this without thinking. RIAA means Record Industry Association. It represents the entire industry, and hurts the collective image of labels as a whole, even non-RIAA ones.

      If people really decide to boycott labels, they'd go against any label, and probably go for independent
    • Re:Good, but... (Score:4, Informative)

      by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray@NOspam.beckermanlegal.com> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:21AM (#19742795) Homepage Journal

      The problem is that the RIAA is just a faceless body representing the big labels, and until people start bitching about Sony, Universal Music, EMI etc, then what does the RIAA care if people hate them?
      In the context of these lawsuits, "RIAA" is just a synonym for the Big 4 record companies and their affiliated labels. Not every member of the RIAA is involved in this thing. It's just the Big 4 cartel. So if you boycott the major labels you're on track. Anyone who wants to look at any particular article, look up the names of the plaintiffs in that case, and put in a post listing them, will be doing a public service.

      But when I say "RIAA" I'm talking about the 4 major record companies and their labels.
  • heh, don't send airhead PIs to mess with a little old lady who got through a level-5 hurricane. they're out of their league.
    • by karnal (22275) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:34PM (#19738597)

      heh, don't send airhead PIs to mess with a little old lady who got through a level-5 hurricane. they're out of their league.
      I don't get it - is that some sort of comparison of strength or something in an RPG? Level-5 hurricane survivor FTW?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by martin_henry (1032656)
        The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale:
        http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshs.shtml [noaa.gov]


        first result on google, dude! it's not like filing a legal counterclaim or anything :P

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jaysyn (203771)
        FirstGov.gov is the U.S. Government's official Web portal to all Federal, state and local government Web resources and services.

        The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

        The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continenta
  • by yotto (590067) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:33PM (#19738591) Homepage
    RIAA et al have learned a valuable lesson here.

    In Texas, old ladies SUE YOU!
  • Licensing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:34PM (#19738601) Homepage
    Look, I'm all for the RIAA burning in hell. But I really hate the idea of having to use a "licensed" investigator. The following *is not* to be taken for a RIAA analogy:

    Let's say your laptop is stolen. Let's say you had a program that reported IP addresses. Someone buys your laptop from the thief for a stupid low price and hooks it up. It reports their IP. You turn the evidence over to a cop who goes to get your laptop.

    1. You were not licensed to be an investigator.
    2. The program author was also not licensed.
    3. The cop obtained evidence from you.

    The person who bought stolen property cannot be charged with a crime. All because you didn't have a "license".

    Instead, the law requiring a license should be replaced with a "suspects' bill of rights". Anyone can investigate, but if his/her rights are violated, then the evidence becomes poisoned fruit.
    • "The person who bought stolen property cannot be charged with a crime. All because you didn't have a "license"" Wait what? Are you saying if you buy something on ebay and it turns out it was stolen you should be the one charged? How can you possibly know whether something on ebay is stolen or not?
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      You didn't hire anyone to do the investigation for you.. you did it yourself.. therefore these laws clearly don't apply.

    • Re:Licensing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fooker (656693) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:41PM (#19738665)
      Actually, that person can be charged with a crime, receiving stolen property. That whole investigating thing has to with if you were paid or not. You are not being paid to find your own stolen property. The RIAA paid another company to investigate for them. The key word is "company". IE a for profit organization. Thats where the whole "unlicensed investigators" thing comes in.
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)
      1) You are the victim, therefore any and all information you have at your disposal would not require a license to turn over to police.

      2) Debatable, you could argue it is the same as putting an alarm or GPS on your car. It is a theft deterrant and/or retrieval device.

      3) That's what cops do, they get info from the victim to find the criminal and presumably put them behind bars or make them pay.
    • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:52PM (#19738741) Homepage
      YOU yourself can do this sort of thing, legally, even in Texas.

      What isn't legit is hiring someone without a proper license to do this professionally
      on your behalf. The same thing goes for providing security services of any kind (incl.
      cybersecurity...)- YOU can do it for yourself, but if you hire someone, you need to hire
      someone with a license or operating the umbrella of one to make it legit if something
      goes wrong.

      Where your analogy falls apart is that you make the assumption that a consultant doing
      the work is analogous to your doing the same work. It's not as far as the civil and
      criminal laws are concerned. Since the RIAA or the Labels themselves did not have direct
      hire employees doing this work, it's not the same thing as what you present- they hired
      a an outside professional (or group thereof) that didn't have a Federal
      license for the work being done or a Texas state PI's license. This makes it all subject
      to litigation like what's now happening to them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) *
        What I'm wondering is at what point this becomes something actionable in the criminal courts? Sucking a few grand out of the RIAA in civil court is all well and good, but their shit isn't going to stop until they get dragged in front of a grand jury and it becomes a fullblown *criminal* investigation.

        Of course, meanwhile suits like this one become fodder for the evidence cannon...

    • Civil vs. Criminal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @09:54PM (#19738755) Journal
      Let's say your laptop is stolen. Let's say you had a program that reported IP addresses. Someone buys your laptop from the thief for a stupid low price and hooks it up. It reports their IP. You turn the evidence over to a cop who goes to get your laptop.

      In addition to the objections others have pointed out, the situations are not analogous. Stealing your laptop is a criminal offense. Despite their propaganda, unlicensed copying of a RIAA member organization's content is a civil matter AND not theft.
      • Despite their propaganda, unlicensed copying of a RIAA member organization's content is a civil matter AND not theft.

        I dunno about the RIAA's content (music) but absconding with the MPAA's content (movies) can, in some cases, be a criminal action.

        PS, how do you like that "absconding" eh? Totally blurs the line between "theft" and "copyright infringement" pretty clever for a PUI - posting under the influence, eh?

        Or maybe not, considering how drunks think they are soooo clever when they really aren't.
        Damn!

    • by falsified (638041)
      You wouldn't be doing the work of a private investigator though. I think you're confusing "being a private investigator" and "finding stuff out".
  • only old people do music file sharing...
  • Ray,

    To paraphrase a phrase I once heard, I'd say about you:

    He mined the power of Slashdot.

  • against the members of RIAA? Are the members of RIAA shielded from any responsibility for actions the organization takes, presumably in their interests? Do the members have a sufficient quantum of control over RIAA (either explicit in the membership agreement, or de facto) that they could be sued for its activities? Sort of analogous to "piercing the corporate veil" and going after a corporation's owners, which can be done in limited circumstances? As long as the RIAA members can live comfortably above t
  • Don't Mess With (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @01:34AM (#19740223) Journal
    Grannies From Texas. I know, I'm married to one.

    > [T]he private investigations company hired by plaintiffs engaged in one or more overt acts of unlawful private investigation... Such actions constitute civil conspiracy under Texas common law.

    Just so. Also, as noted in the p2p article their actions "amount to extortion". If someone says "If you do/do not do X, then I will/will not do Y", that's extortion. When it's done across state lines, it's a federal offense, and none of the plaintiffs are Texas corporations.

    I'm looking forward to the day someone manages to get charges filed rather than just filing suit, and someone from the MafIAA gets arrested. My money's on a state's attorney general doing it, and Texas is a very likely place for that to happen. In any case, KICK ASS, GRANNY!

    • by aralin (107264)
      Don't Mess With Grannies From Texas

      I have learned this lesson by proxy. Anytime I met someone young gentleman from Texas, he was unfailingly polite. First I was saying, that it must be all the guns everyone is carrying around, but they do that in New Hampshire too and they are some mean sons of witches there. So if its not the guns, it must be the Grannies!

  • She has not won anything. This lady is from East Texas. Most patent leeches do everyting they can to file in East Texas because it is almost certain that the judge will rule in their favor. I have no doubt that the case is already biased against her, and if she loses the RIAA will use it as precident for other cases

    The first time I had to go to court in Texas, was when I was in a minor car accident. I got a bill from the other person for $4093.27 in damage to the vehicle. When I showed them the poli

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