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Judge Says No to RIAA Subpoena Request 154

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the trials-and-tribulations dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "For at least the second time, a federal judge has dealt the RIAA's campaign against college students a blow by refusing an ex parte motion by the RIAA for a subpoena against college students. In Newport News, Virginia, Judge Walter D. Kelley, Jr., denied the RIAA's motion for information about students at the College of William and Mary. The Court denied the motion outright, saying it was unauthorized by law. (pdf) Last month it was reported that a New Mexico judge had denied a similar motion directed against University of New Mexico students on the ground that it should not have been made ex parte."
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Judge Says No to RIAA Subpoena Request

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  • It is most gratifying to see a Judge deny an ex parte application like that. I.e., only the RIAA was in court. No one else -- not the students, not even the university -- knew about it or had a chance to say anything.

    This is an example of a good judge doing his homework and actually reading the statutes, and not being impressed by pounds of paper and doubletalk.

    I am very happy to see judges like Judge Kelley and Judge Garcia taking a close look, and saying to the RIAA thugs : "Wait a minute, this is still a court of law, not a schoolyard where bullies can just do whatever they want to defenseless people. We have a rule of law, here, buddy."
    • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @11:27AM (#19859585)
      This is definitely one where people should read TFA. The judge tears their motion apart, and stops just short of saying, "I award you no points, and may god have mercy upon your soul."
      • This is definitely one where people should read TFA. The judge tears their motion apart, and stops just short of saying, "I award you no points, and may god have mercy upon your soul."
        You're right.

        He's saying, in so many words, "the whole statutory basis for your motion is nonexistent.... why didn't you read the statute before citing it?" and "why didn't you mention the real statute for this kind of thing, which DOESN'T allow this kind of motion against a COLLEGE?"
        • by superwiz (655733)
          I am sure they were treating college as an ISP in the motion. Let's not confuse form over function. Just because a college provides functions other than an ISP does not mean that it doesn't provide the function of an ISP. That is the function here is and ISP and the form is a college. So the only relevant question becomes is this type of motion allowed against an ISP.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by karmatic (776420)

            I am sure they were treating college as an ISP in the motion. Let's not confuse form over function.

            Well, you're either a moron or a person with reading comprehension problems.

            Actually, if you read the judgement, they weren't treating them like an ISP. The statute they were attempting to claim authorized their motion was a statute authorizing said motions by the government against a cable company.

            The judge basically tells them "There's a DMCA for this sort of thing, and it doesn't authorize this behavior ei

        • by VidEdit (703021) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:23PM (#19861043)
          The judge's ruling seemed to suggest that the RIAA's blatantly misleading filing borders on perpetrating a fraud on the court. It almost seems lucky the weren't cited for contempt.
      • by value_added (719364) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @01:30PM (#19860369)
        This is definitely one where people should read TFA. The judge tears their motion apart, and stops just short of saying, "I award you no points, and may god have mercy upon your soul."

        My favourite bit was the following from the last link:

        Plaintiffs contend that unless the Court allows ex parte immediate discovery, they will be irreparably harmed. While the Court does not dispute that infringement of a copyright results in harm, it requires a Coleridgian "suspension of disbelief" to accept that the harm is irreparable, especially when monetary damages can cure any alleged violation. On the other hand, the harm related to disclosure of confidential information in a student or faculty member's Internet files can be equally harmful.

        For anyone unfamiliar with Coleridge [wikipedia.org], reading something on the origin of the phrase suspension of disbelief [texaschapbookpress.com] might be informative. At least easier than reading Coleridge's own works.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Well. Now it is just a metter to move to a political sphere and change the law.

      No one can stops the RIAA to overtake the world. Not this judge, not the law, not the people. You just borrowed your freedom. Is is jus a matter of time and money!

      Buahh! ha! ha!

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      Personally, I was thinkin, "That's COMEDY" when I read that article. Anything that cuts the knees off of *IAA is a Good Thing INMSFBHO.
    • I seriously wish and hope they sue Bush's daughters by anon and Subpoena whitehouse.

      Am sure not only executive privilege be invoked by Bush, but also the fact that "suddenly" RIAA may find itself under intense scrutiny by IRS and by FTC and being declared "person of interest".
      • by mjpaci (33725)
        The RIAA is so stupid, they'd subpoena whitehouse.com.

        W&M is my alma mater and it kind of gave me a nice fuzzy feeling to see it metioned on Slashdot in an article. Not that the College did a whole lot except get named in a rejected ex parte motion...at least it's better press than it's getting with the whole cross in the chapel debacle.

        (http://www.savethewrencross.org/blog/index.php?ca tid=4)
  • The thought just occurred to me the RIAA would like the IP address and every school attendee simply to selectively enforce it. The last thing the RIAA wants to do is go after someone from a family of rich lawyers.... they want the ones that can't afford to fight. Or perhaps daddy might pass a law...

    RIAA paracites.

  • Unlike U WA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Com2Kid (142006)
    UW had to give in so easily why now...?
    • Re:Unlike U WA (Score:5, Insightful)

      UW had to give in so easily why now...?
      Because they were lazy and cowardly. Had they lifted a finger to fight it, they would have knocked the RIAA out of the box.

      If I was a parent of a UW student I'd be mad.
      • I think UW made the wrong decision, but in their defense they're not releasing any student information, just forwarding the settlement letters. If the RIAA did sue and ask for the info, they very well might fight it.
        • I think UW made the wrong decision, but in their defense they're not releasing any student information, just forwarding the settlement letters. If the RIAA did sue and ask for the info, they very well might fight it.

          The RIAA undoubtedly has sued, and has asked the judge for an ex parte order, and UW has probably done absolutely nothing to make sure the students had notice and an opportunity to oppose the motion, and UW has probably done absolutely nothing to bring to the judge's attention the legal impropriety of the RIAA's actions. And probably the judge won't be as alert as Judges Garcia and Kelley.

          I hope I'm wrong.

    • Re:Unlike U WA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @11:45AM (#19859733)
      Actually, W & M likely would have caved in as well, but they didn't have to because the judge caught it before it came to that...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Actually, W & M likely would have caved in as well, but they didn't have to because the judge caught it before it came to that...
        You may be right, Kazoo. We'll never know.

        But thank goodness for an alert judge, who actually read the law.
        • Re:Unlike U WA (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ari_j (90255) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @12:27PM (#19859983)
          W&M has a tendency to cave in, such as to the NCAA regarding the use of Indian logos and the recent temporary removal (until deep-pocket alumni demanded its return) of a cross from the on-campus Wren Chapel (for those unaware, the Christopher Wren Building is the oldest building in continuous academic use in the United States). This motion may have been decided differently had W&M been given the opportunity to be heard. ;)
          • W&M's been the subject of a pretty vicious smear campaign by a group of anonymous neo-cons. (Newt Gingrich's office and The Collegiate Network [wikipedia.org] have funded these attacks, and have given scholarships to students who have "come out" against the school)

            There was indeed a cross in the wren building that got removed this past year, as it was a state-owned building that wasn't explicitly used for religious purposes. The cross was NOT historically significant, and there were no records showing that there even
            • by ari_j (90255)
              I'm glad someone from the main campus chimed in. However, with the cross thing, you'll note that all of the actual thinking took place after what at least appeared to be swift kowtowing. If it wasn't caving, it sure went out of its way to look that way. The same is the case with the feathers. Other small (specifically, less than 1/5 of the endowment of W&M) state schools have taken the NCAA to court on much more contentious issues. I happen to agree with the decision on this one - it's not worth ta
              • Actually, I've talked with the head of IT, and was told that the (un)official policy is to ignore any requests from the RIAA that could potentially incriminate students, unless they're in the form of a legal subpoena.

                I believe they've also contacted students who frequently come up in the lists of IP addresses that are requested by the RIAA, asking them to lay off the filesharing, although I've never heard this from any sort of official source...

                WM has, however, honored non-subpoena requests from NBC, which
                • by ari_j (90255)
                  NBC's policy indeed sounds fairly reasonable. W&M's IT people and protecting students, though, may or may not be as good as you describe. I had a roommate at the Gradplex whose entire W&M internet connection was shut off early last year for a few days until he went through a process involving promising not to download unlicensed content again, at the request of one or another movie studio (or possibly the MPAA itself) after he had downloaded a movie, I believe using Bittorrent. Maybe we just get
                • Actually, I've talked with the head of IT, and was told that the (un)official policy is to ignore any requests from the RIAA that could potentially incriminate students, unless they're in the form of a legal subpoena.

                  It will always be "in the form of a legal subpoena" unless either (a) the universities oppose the RIAA's ex parte motion for permission to issue a subupoena or (b) an astute and hardworking judge like Judge Kelley or Judge Garcia happens to be the judge across whose desk the application comes.

                  So their statement that they would not turn over the information without a subpoena is a non sequitur.

                  • I believe the RIAA has sent letters to the effect of "Please send us the names of the students behind these IP addresses, or we will come back with a subpoena"

                    Correct me if I'm wrong, of course...
          • This motion may have been decided differently had W&M been given the opportunity to be heard. ;)

            Or not heard, as seems their wont based on their recent history.

    • UW didn't "cave," at least not yet. They forwarded RIAA settlement letters to students, but specifically said that they were not forwarding the students' information on to the RIAA.
      • UW didn't "cave," at least not yet. They forwarded RIAA settlement letters to students, but specifically said that they were not forwarding the students' information on to the RIAA.

        Sure they're not going to turn over the information to the RIAA without a court order. But if they do nothing, and the judge in Washington isn't as alert as Judges Kelley and Garcia have been, the order will be granted ex parte. That's why I'm asking university administrators and legal counsel to please wake up and protect their students' due process rights [blogspot.com].

  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @12:36PM (#19860039) Homepage
    Stung by criticism that it was utilizing unlicensed private investigators in order to track down alleged online copyright violators, the RIAA has admitted to "improperly obtaining" user data, and in an unusual near-apology, vowed to clean up its act. "It is time to face the music. We must stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life. Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long, and I take my responsibility for my part in all of this. That is all I can do," said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA. Bainwole went on to say, "We have important work to do -- real pirated CDs to seize, real problems to solve, real security matters to face. I now ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past eighteen months, to repair the fabric of our national discourse, and to return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of upcoming American entertainment that will be brought to you by RIAA members.

    On the same day, the RIAA also announced new software it would make available as a free download called riaaBuddy.

    riaaBuddy is an on-screen "intelligent software agent" created by the RIAA, and based upon Microsoft Agent [wikipedia.org] technology. The goal of the program is to help users enrich their online musical experience as they discover digital music together with the included "riaaBuddy," which is an animated, purple Sheryl Crow. Users can interact with Sheryl by asking her questions, get recommendations on new music released by RIAA artist, as well as be politely informed when unapproved websites are loaded.

    Other features include, an integrated download tracker, music-related themes, desktops, screen savers, and cute, animated emoticons, bearing a resemblance to top-selling RIAA artists. Also included is a desktop search utility that indexes a hard drive's contents in order to allow the user to easily perform searches.

    While initial response to the program has been positive, a few early users complain that the program is buggy. The purple Sheryl Crow is said to only be able to sing the song Daisy Bell. "The program keeps changing my home page to a crappy RIAA home page," said one teenager who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of a RIAA-sponsored lawsuit. There have also been complaints of an increase in pop-up advertising.
    • That brings back memories. I remember being in my high school computer lab in a computer science class when someone installed bonzai buddy. The entire class pointed and laughed at him for a solid 15 minutes.
      • "...when someone installed bonzai buddy."

        Having an anthropomorphic miniature Japanese tree on his screen would have been at least bizarre, if not funny.
    • On the same day, the RIAA also announced new software it would make available as a free download called riaaBuddy.

      Yeah, that loads right next to the RIAA Genuine Advantage program in my memory map.

  • Considering how quickly word passes among college students, how long before students at every college and university know that these subpoenas can be fought at the ex parte Doe stage, and how long before they demand that their universities do exactly that?

Real computer scientists don't comment their code. The identifiers are so long they can't afford the disk space.

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