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RIAA Directed To Pay $68K In Attorneys Fees 192

Posted by kdawson
from the not-with-impunity dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In Capitol v. Foster, in Oklahoma, the RIAA has been directed to pay the defendant $68,685.23 in attorneys fees. This is the first instance of which I am aware of the RIAA being ordered to pay the defendant attorneys fees. The judge in this case has criticized the RIAA's lawyers' motives as 'questionable,' and their legal theories as 'marginal' (PDF). Although the judge had previously ordered the RIAA to turn over its own attorneys billing records, today's decision (PDF) made no mention of the amount that the RIAA had spent on its own lawyers."
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RIAA Directed To Pay $68K In Attorneys Fees

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:58PM (#19884119)
    the lawyers, of course.
    • by tehwebguy (860335) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:23PM (#19884257) Homepage
      Yes, but at least that is motivation for lawyers to take on more cases like this. Hopefully this will benefit people who could not afford a decent lawyer normally.
      • Hopefully this will benefit people who could not afford a decent lawyer normally.


        Or original cds... aparently :P
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Now I feel that the effort I made to do technical analysis of the RIAA's evidence and post it here and on another forum was worth it. Even if my particular work didn't help directly. I don't think the lawyers are winning nearly as much as they could be if they had to do all the technical analysis through leagal companies. Also, this kind of situation shows up the RIAA and is likely to slow down their similar actions in future.
  • So (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:58PM (#19884121)
    Do they have to pay this in cash, or can they give the defendant part of a CD? After all, each song is worth $150,000 or so...
  • by Rix (54095) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:01PM (#19884133)
    I'm really sorry.
  • Noticed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mistlefoot (636417) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:01PM (#19884135)
    I suspected this will noticed by lawyers as much as by anyone threatened. I imagine that cases will be taken on contingency that wouldn't be touched before. Not that I can blame a lawyer. Working for months at the risk of not being paid wouldn't be attractive to anyone. That risk is now much less if your lawyer believes in you.

    I do wonder if this really does cover costs though. I couldn't read the link the article posted too - busy - but I did read the New York City lawyer reply indicating he feels the dollar amount isn't enough. I am sure he has a better idea of costs then I do.
    • Re:Noticed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by beadfulthings (975812) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:41PM (#19884375) Journal
      The court order referred to in the article states that "reasonable attorney's fees" should be set at somewhere between $175 and $225 per hour. That seems a bit low by comparison with what senior attorneys make around here. (Here being the East Coast.) If you think about it, even a higher hourly rate for a lawyer would be fairly well in line with what's commanded by other skilled and/or professional individuals--including computer consultants. It's interesting to stop and think what the doctor who takes out your appendix earns in an hour. The woman's actual bills as submitted summed up to a little over $114,000. That included a lot of other expenses besides attorney fees, including fees paid to expert witnesses. The RIAA seems to have put up quite a fight of their own, and they've succeeded in whittling down the sum to be awarded to the plaintiff.

      The problem is that not everybody has $68,000 or $114,000 or even a few thousand dollars to put up that kind of fight. If it's beneficial to continue to carry the fight back to the RIAA in this manner, it's going to take a combination of well-heeled individuals and civic-minded lawyers.

      After I read the article and the document, a chilling thought occurred: If the RIAA knows that certain people have the means to turn and fight, will they then concentrate their efforts on those people without the means? That would be students, children, the elderly, people just starting their careers, people working at lower-paying jobs.
      • Re:Noticed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Reverberant (303566) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:04AM (#19884435) Homepage

        That seems a bit low by comparison with what senior attorneys make around here. (Here being the East Coast.) If you think about it, even a higher hourly rate for a lawyer would be fairly well in line with what's commanded by other skilled and/or professional individuals--including computer consultants.

        In my experience (working with lawyers on public and high-profile corporate projects across the U.S.), even mid-level lawyers tend to make more than senior level architects and engineering consultants. For example, (again, IME) an expert engineering consultant (where by expert I mean someone who has 30+ years experience, P.E. registration, advanced degrees, and engineering methods named after them) would bill on the order of $300 per hour. I've seen entry level lawyers bill jobs at $225 per hour.

        I would suspect that a typical lawyer would make far above what computer consultans make unless the consultant has a name like "Woz", "Tog", "Spolsky" or "Berners-Lee."

      • by GizmoToy (450886)
        While this does seem a bit low for hourly rates, even in this area, why is it interesting to consider a surgeon's compensation? A surgeon typically has at least 6 more years of training than a lawyer. I wouldn't expect their salaries to be comparable, just as I wouldn't expect someone with an undergraduate degree to be making as much as a lawyer. On average, of course. There are always exceptions.

        I would be inclined to argue that lawyers are overpaid, especially if you go by skilled or professional wor
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          At $200/hr, that's at least $400,000 a year...

          You're assuming they get to bill 40 hours per week, and have no costs. They have to spend some of their time on non-billable running-the-business work, possibly pay secretaries and legal researchers, rent, malpractise insurance, attending conferences...

          IANAL, so I don't know what the overheads are like, but they'll be a non-negligable fraction of that $400,000.
          • by GizmoToy (450886)
            Sure, but doctors have almost all of those exact same costs, except for maybe the secretaries. And the paralegal research stuff is all billed separately.

            Certainly all of that is not take-home cash. I agree with your point, but they probably take home around 25%-50% of that, which is still well above occupations with similar amounts of schooling. Especially if they get away with double billing for the same work like the guys in this case tried to do.
            • by timmarhy (659436)
              they will likely have a recpetionist to pay, a couple of paralegals... not the mention the cost of renting an office and insurance. all that quickly eats $400,000 away.
          • by arth1 (260657)
            R'ing TFA, it seems to me like they manage to bill for much of that "non-billable" work too, including (but not limited to) secretaries and legal researchers...

            • Re:Noticed (Score:5, Interesting)

              by morethanapapercert (749527) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @01:44AM (#19884865)
              My wife just came out of a court battle against her ex for support. While this was done in a Canadian family court and not an American civil court, I think a few excerpts from our legal bill would be enlightening...
              10 hours @ 200$/hr = 2000$
              6 faxes @ 4 each = 24$
              long distance 80m@.90/m = 72$
              court filing fees = 135$ (3x45$)
              mediation fees = 980$
              GST = 336$
              (the GST is the federal level tax at 7%, no the math does not work out, amount listed is for GST on total bill (4800$) while I am only providing selected excerpts to illustrate my point.)

                  My wife has an excellent lawyer, the antithesis of all those lawyer jokes you've heard. However, note that while he makes 200/hr, this is only when he is in court for us. (Each appearance seems to be rounded to the nearest half hour in the detailed bill.) On the other hand, he "nickel and dimes" us for absolutely everything done on our behalf. I am quite sure that he charges 4$ per fax because that is the pro-rated amount it costs him to have an employee handle those. Similarly, while he charges more than the prime rate for long distance, I suspect that this rate also includes the basic overhead of having the multi-line phone set up in the first place. He charges a much lower rate when simply meeting us and the ex in a conference room in his own offices, a fee which probably not only covers his time, but the space as well.
                Finally, GST applies to everything except the court filings themselves. My wife was charged almost 5 grand for a comparatively simple case being handled by a small town lawyer. Based on her experiences, I can easily see a battle against a RIAA suit going into the six figures. Where many people go wrong when figuring legal costs is to assume that the entire sum is based purely on "billable hours". Quite often that final sum will include a LOT of little things like faxes or phone calls. While not as large a percentage of the total as the main billable hours, it's not negligible either.
              • by Synchis (191050)
                Its funny that you would mention them nickel and diming you. I used to work at a company that made page counters for printers and fax machine... the purpose of these devices was to count the pages printed or faxed at each device, and then do a bunch of accounting functions on it so that billing could be divided up in appropriate ways.

                The primary client for these page counting devices was... Lawyers. :)

                I guess I should be a little ashamed to say that I have indirectly contributed to the nickel and diming of
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *
          You wanna talk pay? My PhD took me 5 years. Then, I had to work another 8 as a "lecturer", making about 12 bucks an hour and no benefits (this is at a "Midwest Ivy" institution). OK, now I've realized I'm not getting a tenure track position at this joint, so I go to a Cow College where I'm a "senior lecturer" where I'm up to about 15 bucks an hour, but still no bennies. 3 years and I get offered a tenure track gig at Corn U. What am I up to, about 20 years since getting my bachelors (hey, the PhD was N
          • by AndersOSU (873247)
            Gee, it's almost as if certain professions make more money than others even controlling for education and job difficulty.

            I don't know why anyone hasn't noticed this before.
          • What did you get your Ph.D in? Those figures definitely aren't typical for a CS Ph.D.
          • by Gilmoure (18428)
            Dude, I have 27 full time semesters and no degree (keep changing majors). Got a job as a computer tech at my last college, making $35k/yr, banging coeds and profs, and I got free tuition as well. Screw the degree. Starting a job at a government research lab, doubling salary and they're paying moving expenses. Only down side is I have to support grad students. Takes them a year or so to learn that computer support is limited, rationed and they're now the bottom of the ladder. Again.
      • by arth1 (260657)
        beadfulthings (975812) wrote:

        The court order referred to in the article states that "reasonable attorney's fees" should be set at somewhere between $175 and $225 per hour. That seems a bit low by comparison with what senior attorneys make around here. (Here being the East Coast.) If you think about it, even a higher hourly rate for a lawyer would be fairly well in line with what's commanded by other skilled and/or professional individuals--including computer consultants.

        Very few computer consultants make mo

        • by Splab (574204)
          Uhm, when you guys talk about computer consultants do you mean what the guy gets paid or what the company charges? Back when I was a slave coder I made around $50, but the company charged around $200 per hour of work I did.
      • by neersign (956437)
        [blockquote]It's interesting to stop and think what the doctor who takes out your appendix earns in an hour[/bockquote]

        it is interesting, because it actually turn out to be MUCH less than you would imagine. It all depends on exactly what type of doctor you are talking about, but once you see the long hours that doctors acutally work, their high paychecks don't seem so glamorous. I'd argue that most doctors that work in hospitals make between $80-$100 an hour, based on 80-120 hour work weeks. At any rate

      • After I read the article and the document, a chilling thought occurred: If the RIAA knows that certain people have the means to turn and fight, will they then concentrate their efforts on those people without the means? That would be students, children, the elderly, people just starting their careers, people working at lower-paying jobs.
        And this would differ from what they've been doing...how?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Kamokazi (1080091)
        My best friend works IT at a fairly large lawfirm in Columbus, OH. They have about 150 laywers and 200 more paralegals, secretaries, and staff. Their top attorneys bill at $400 an hour broken down to 15 minutes. So one phone call for 5 minutes=$100. That doesn't include the $4 per fax page (and seeing as their fax system is paperless...well), $3 per laser printer page, $1.50 per copy, document preparation fees from the in-house print shop, lunches, paralegal man-hours, and probably a quarter every time
      • Surgeon's fees (Score:3, Informative)

        by wwood_98 (852037) *

        It's interesting to stop and think what the doctor who takes out your appendix earns in an hour.

        If it happens to be an uncomplicated operation, an appendectomy might take me 45min best case. It could take 2 hours. I would say it takes at least an hour (at shortest) before the operation starts to examine / interview the patient, get informed consent, evaluate labs, imaging studies. Then there is postoperative care of the patient in the hospital as well as follow-up visits to the clinic later.

        As a surgeon, Medicare reimburses a $482.62 "global fee" for a laparoscopic appendectomy in my area (ther

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by panaceaa (205396)
      I'm personally waiting for TV commercials saying, "Have you been threatened by a record company accusing you of copyright infringement? Get the justice you deserve!!"

      Once these commercials are plastered all over Judge Judy's commercial breaks, I bet the record companies will stop their foolishness.
    • by jrumney (197329)

      I imagine that cases will be taken on contingency that wouldn't be touched before.

      This is just costs. No damages. I can't see any lawyer being prepared to take a case on contingency if the expected outcomes are either winning and being paid what they should be due, or losing and being paid nothing. They are only going to take cases on contingency where there is a chance of making much more than their costs.

  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GizmoToy (450886) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:03PM (#19884145) Homepage
    It's sad when it costs you $70,000 to defend yourself against an RIAA suit. At least in this case the RIAA had to pay for the defense's lawyers, but there have been plenty of others were the defendants were on their own when all was said and done. On top of that, the RIAA is well aware of the costs of defending against their lawsuit and uses this cost to force people into settlements.

    The whole situation makes me sick.
  • by Statecraftsman (718862) * on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:15PM (#19884219) Homepage
    The summary is mis-leading the reader as it makes it seem like all fees are paid for by the RIAA and the defendant got off untouched. Depending on how solid her fees were, it could still end very badly for the defendant. If her stated fees are actually due, this judgement will still cost her about $46k which doesn't sound like much of a victory to me.
    • by shawn443 (882648)
      Still a victory my lass. Arrgh. And a fine one at that.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      The summary is mis-leading the reader as it makes it seem like all fees are paid for by the RIAA and the defendant got off untouched. Depending on how solid her fees were, it could still end very badly for the defendant. If her stated fees are actually due, this judgement will still cost her about $46k which doesn't sound like much of a victory to me.

      You need to see past the particular case and seek long-term effects from such developments. It's unfair to the defendant, but who said the legal system is fair
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jhol13 (1087781)

        I doubt RIAA would have internal approval of their actions if they start consistently paying the defendant's expenses at the end.

        I disagree.

        Let's assume legal fees are 100k for both sides. If RIAA have to pay 60k extra for every tenth or so trial the average cost is increasing less than 10% - a marginal change.

        On the other hand fear factor is not going down, the defendant still lost 40k, at least few years worth of income (after rent, etc.).

        Now think about how much the losers have to pay RIAA, and how much money they get in out-of-court settlements. So even if RIAA loses two thirds of the cases (and have to pay) I think they

      • by Perseid (660451)
        No, this campaign is already an expense for the RIAA. They never intend to actually make money from the lawsuits - it's a PR stunt. Download Madonna and get sued, that sort of crap. So this just makes their campaign slightly more expensive.
        • Unfortunately for them,in the minds of the public (and especially the teenager / college student public, who used to buy most of the music), they (the RIAA) have become the Sherrif of Nottingham, and folks like the defendant in this case are Robin Hoods.

          That kind of publicity they can do without, as it will turn their prophecies (of internet music sharing being the doom of the music industry) into self-fulfilling prophecies.

    • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rix (54095) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:40PM (#19884367)
      Even if they did end up paying all her legal fees, plus interest, plus lost wages, the MAFIAA would still be ahead.

      The point of these lawsuits isn't to recover "damages". It's to frighten the rest of the country into acting the way they want them to. If their skin were a little darker, it would be called "terrorism".
      • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:41AM (#19884579)
        Hey! You were supposed [slashdot.org] to have handed in your password and UID and left the site. Now come quietly or we will bring out CowboyNeal.... [Sound of screaming and heels being dragged backwards on a concrete floor]
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Even if they did end up paying all her legal fees, plus interest, plus lost wages, the MAFIAA would still be ahead."

        Nah, I used to love music. It used to make me happy and make me think about wonderful things. It used to excite me and relax me, whichever I needed at the time of listening to it.

        I bought about a half-dozen of CD's every month, of many different kinds of music. I lovest finding new music and listening to it.

        Until this shit started. Almost every time I hear new music now, it makes me think of
      • RIAA Income from lawsuit: $300
        RIAA Expenses from fees: $67,000

        The look on the dead Jack Valenti's face when he learns RIAA is spending 223 times its income from litigation: Priceless

      • by AusIV (950840)

        The point of these lawsuits isn't to recover "damages". It's to frighten the rest of the country into acting the way they want them to.

        But if they're paying out huge legal fees, it's more likely people will spend more in opposition to the RIAA rather than settling. While losing $68K isn't going to kill the RIAA, it certainly sets a bad precedent for them.

    • Overzealous lawyers? (Score:4, Informative)

      by achurch (201270) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:48AM (#19884615) Homepage
      Judging from the decision, it looks like the defendant may have been overcharged by her lawyers, in the sense of being billed for more time than was reasonable. The judge makes several disparaging remarks about the defense lawyers block-billing time rather than keeping accurate records of exactly how much time was spent doing what, and about "almost frenetic" activity once they knew they would be recovering costs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by borizz (1023175)
      That's just not how it should work. RIAA* sued, RIAA were wrong, RIAA pay. The woman did nothing wrong and thus should not have to pay for anything.

      * Yes, I know it's not the RIAA that's doing the sueing...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sephiro444 (624651)

      This is not necessarily the case

      In asking for over $100,000 in her request for attorney fees, the defendant used a lodestar method of calculating the fee (which is really just a fancy way of saying multiple reasonable number of hours by a reasonable rate and that's what you pay). She said $175/hr was reasonable for one of her attorneys and $225/hr was reasonable for the other, but she gave no reason for the increased rate for the second attorney. IN FACT, $175/hr was the rate she agreed upon rate, so I'm

  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:20PM (#19884241)
    This is exactly the reason why so many capitulate and take the RIAA $3000.00 settlement. maybe, just maybe people will begin fighting these RIAA thugs in suits because of this ruling.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:06AM (#19884449)

      Eh, I dunno. It looks like the lady still has $46k in fees to pay. She just doesn't have to pay the lawyer.

      A $3k settlement would suck, but I'd sigh, whip out the credit card, and resign myself to not buying any goodies for the next month until it's paid off. $46k would basically ruin my life for the next couple years. I completely understand why people settle.

  • This is great stuff (Score:4, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:28PM (#19884283) Journal
    The first thing I wondered was, what on earth do the lawyers do that cost this much? First she requested $55,000 for lawyer fees, which the court gave her. The RIAA complained that it wasn't reasonable, and of course since her lawyer had to work extra to deal with that request, they raised the bill to $114K. This includes $225/hr for the lawyer, $100/hr for the paralegals, and 8 cents a page for copies. Apparently the court thought this was a bit high because they reduced it down to $68,685.23. Still, I'm sure it's quite a win for the lawyer.

    --
    Need to trade for a newer girlfriend? Now you can!! [usedgirlfriend.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by darkmeridian (119044)
      When attorneys realize that they're seeking costs, they tend to ask for billed hours that they normally would write off. The hours were actually expended, but usually are not billed to keep the client happy. If you have a shot at having your opponent foot the bill, you do not write those off. The court normally reduces them. Of course, it should go from $114K to $68K so I guess someone really padded the bill.
      • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:39PM (#19884365) Journal
        The bill and the justification are available online:

        The Bill [ilrweb.com]
        The Justification [ilrweb.com]

        Interesting reading.
        --
        Need to trade for a newer girlfriend? Now you can!! [usedgirlfriend.com]
      • by darkmeridian (119044) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:46PM (#19884393) Homepage
        Now the decision and order has loaded, it seems that the defendant and her attorneys engaged in gamesmanship and got caught by the judge.

        The defendant's attorneys charged for costs associated with answering e-mails, phone calls, and leaving voice mails. He also billed the same work twice by having two attorneys attend the same motion hearings. The Court got real pissy and took away some hours that it thought were due to the incompetence of the defendant's attorneys resulting in things having to be done twice.

        Most tellingly, the Court was annoyed that half of the attorneys fees demanded were incurred after the defendant had been declared the victor and had already initially filed for attorneys fees. It seemed that the defendants/his attorneys belatedly realized that they were going to file for fees and had to rack up the hours. The Court found that there was an "increased, almost frenetic activity on the part of counsel for the defendant after it was determined that Defendant was the prevailing party" and was thereby eligible for attorneys fees.

        And the defendant's attorney was trying to get away with $1.50 for each photocopied page. The Court granted them $.20. Kinko's charges $0.02.

        So it sounds like I was right -- the defendant's attorney was running up the fee request by asking for things that no sane client would ever pay, and no sane attorney would ever ask from a real-life paying customer.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:01AM (#19884431)
          While it's true there are some blatant attempts to rack up the bill here and the court adjusted for that, it's misinformed to believe that the court was "annoyed" by anything. It's all just part of the game. You push as far as you can to see what you can get--you'd be doing your clients a disservice by being conservative with the amount of the reward, especially against a party as pernicious as the RIAA. There's some vengeance there--you make them cough up every penny you can, because it's exactly what they'd do to you when the tables turned.

          Moreover, answering emails, phone calls, and voicemail are all billable time. Every attorney charges for those costs. They also charge for long distance airtime. "Billing twice" for attendance is also potentially billable if the services of both attorneys are integral or appropriate for the proceedings. If you've got two people at a meeting from one department, both get paid for the time they spent there. Why should lawyers eat the cost of extra bodies? What you're saying holds true if and only if the presence of more than one attorney is superfluous. Also, given that courts themselves charge attorneys up to $1 per page for photocopying, the $1.50 assessment has to be put into perspective. Copying isn't free--even if you do use Kinko's, there are other expenses related to punching, binding, and preparing documents for filing. I also happen to know that Kinko's charges $.08 for self-serve copies, at least around here, and that's with the corporate discount. They also have a tiered pricing system, but that's beside the point.

          The examples you chose are not all pushing the envelope. Most of them are sane, standard, and assessed charges, in point of fact.
          • To be fair not every attorney does the whole "billable time" thing. I've hired an attorney, and while in the fine print, he could conceivably had charged me for phone calls and stuff, I hired him for the job. He gave me a figure, I met it, and things are going well. Not all attorneys bill time. Some do pricing by the job. It all depends on how deep you are in it. However, my troubles with the law fell into the category of standard operating procedure. I'm not alone in my law breaking, and they've p
          • The judge wrote in his opinion that the attorneys for the defendant made mistakes and should not be able to benefit from their incompetence. That's as strongly worded as decisions get.

            The point remains that these charges may be sane for a corporate client, but a client like the defendant probably would not be charged these fees.
        • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:05AM (#19884447) Homepage Journal
          Actually there was a huge amount of work which Ms. Foster's attorney had to do after the initial, February 6th, decision, due to innumerable motions and other dilatory tactics by the RIAA. Just look at some of the litigation documents (and this list was very selective) in my folder for Capitol v. Foster [blogspot.com]. I was really shocked by the Judge's knocking Ms. Barringer-Thomson's bill down so far; she did not deserve that. My best guess is that he was trying to protect the record against any kind of appeal from the RIAA.

          Despite my disappointment at the amount awarded, an attorneys fee award against the RIAA for more than $68,000 is a very important precedent, one which
          -is being taken very seriously by the RIAA, albeit with a slight sigh of relief, and
          -is being noticed by lawyers and litigants across the country, as a sign of encouragement to stand and fight.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by PMBjornerud (947233)
            Just wondering,

            If the defendant ended up with huge expenses even when winning, could this be used in some form of racketeering lawsuit against the RIAA?

            As in "Give us $3000 or we'll sue. Then, even if you win it will cost you ten times more than that."

            It's obvious that they're not suing people for money, but to create a public image of it being dangerous to cross them.
        • Wouldn't this be another example of turnabout == fair play? I imagine that in order to beat the RIAA at their own lawyering game, you have to overcharge and then settle on a less, but still significantly high, price.

          Just like the RIAA was trying to "charge" people $150,000 per violation which usually gets whittled down to $5,000 per, these lawyers were likely knowingly overcharging.

          Here is a thought, in order to prevent the RIAA from continuing to use the copyright violations as a very lucrative revenue st
    • by mr_matticus (928346) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:45PM (#19884391)
      Not really. That's a fairly modestly-priced lawyer. It's expensive to be in the legal profession--between malpractice insurance, bar membership, various subscriptions to legal services, and everything else, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year just to be an attorney. That doesn't even factor in the operating costs of the business (rent, utilities, supplies, voice/data services, etc.) which of course are themselves in the tens of thousands of dollars for just a small firm. I'm not saying that lawyers on the whole are struggling financially, but that $225 an hour is nowhere near raw profit. What it is is extremely high revenue.

      If you took your company's (assume you work for a company that doesn't manufacture anything for the moment) annual revenue and divided it by the number of employees, it would work out to a staggering hourly rate. Obviously that doesn't all go into your pocket. Same with lawyers. The hourly rate (and the percentage cuts from awards) are a law firm's *sole* source of income. It's not directly comparable to the hourly rate you get paid at your job.

      Further, what seems to be a good windfall more often than not ends up covering debt from a pro bono case somewhere else. Lawyers take on massive debts to argue cases with the hope that they'll get paid. It's hardly a guarantee. Chasing down clients for money they still owe is something every lawyer is familiar with. That's why big wins are celebrated--it's what creates the "rich lawyer." Most cases, including this one, are nothing spectacular, but they're enough to encourage lawyers to take the risk, now that this gate is open.
  • by ClamIAm (926466) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:31PM (#19884299)
    I think we should stop referring to the big, bad RIAA whenever possible. One of the reasons this organization exists is to funnel bad press away from specific companies (e.g. oh I dunno, Capitol) and toward an organization that doesn't really do anything on its own. Saying "the RIAA is suing somebody" doesn't really tell me anything.

    If, instead, we referred to the actual company(-ies) involved, it would let people know who is really filing these lawsuits. I realize that it's mostly the Big Four who are doing this, but I feel that just slapping the RIAA label onto everything clouds the discussion.
    • Good point. Maybe kids will be less willing to buy less of those Maroon 5 or Rihanna CD's if they know that the profits were indirectly being used to sue their friends who got caught using Limewire.

      Hearing less Maroon 5 or Rihanna would just be a bonus :)
    • by PMBjornerud (947233) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:33AM (#19884535)
      The great thing about RIAA suing people is that they're the ones doing the dirty work. But as in the MAFIAA, you can be sure that there is never any specific company that ordered each lawsuit. So how can you blame, say, Capitol?

      Boycotting the big fours is a good start, but a good thing would be RIAA-tracking sites like http://www.riaaradar.com/ [riaaradar.com] or some other way people can know. It's very difficult, since idependent labels might have a joint venture with a small RIAA member, but it's probably possible to turn it into some kind of "rotten" percentage.

      The problem is how to make it easy to use. A user-friendly, but probably infeasible solution would be if you just took a picture of the bar code of an album, then submitted that image to a search function that would immediately return all the dirt of any company involved in releasing said album.
      • by arth1 (260657)
        As long as the record companies support and fund RIAA, we can (and IMNSHO should) blame the record companies too. Much like you blame the guy who pays the hitman, and not just the hitman.

        Much like Piano rolls were a dying business when radio and records took over some 80 years ago, records in their CD reincarnation is a dying medium now. And just like Aeolian blamed and sued others back then (like those who made a record out of a piano roll performance -- see the parallel?), the record companies refuse to
      • by panaceaa (205396)
        Perhaps you should read the second word in the summary. It's not the article, it's not even the whole summary, just the second word:

        "Capitol"

        In all of these cases, specific record companies are the plantiffs. In this case, it's one company, in other cases, it's two record companies. It's only the press that reports it as actions of the RIAA, since all the legal filings specify the record companies claiming infringement.
  • Chutzpah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:25AM (#19884513) Homepage
    From the filing:
    [Plaintiffs] further argue that the defendant is not entitled to fees for work that could have been avoided had she assisted the plaintiffs or acceded to the settlement.

    She can't charge for attorneys' fees because she decided not to settle? Does that imply that if she had settled, she would have gotten attorneys' fees? What planet are these people from?

    Finally, [plaintiffs] contend the case was of too simple and mundane a nature to warrant a fee in excess of $100,000.

    Yet they see nothing wrong with a fine of $100,000 per violation for copyright infringement.

    How did the judge feel about this?

    The plaintiffs argue that the defendant is not entitled to fees incurred after some point when she allegedly "could have avoided [fees] altogether but chose not to do so." Throughout the course of this litigation the plaintiffs have alleged that had the defendant appropriately assisted their copyright infringement investigation and litigation, she could have avoided being sued. The Court has rejected this argument on numerous occasions and declines to entertain it yet again. The defendant was entitled to litigate the claims the plaintiffs chose to bring against her and, as the prevailing party on those claims, she is entitled to recover the reasonable attorneys' fees she incurred in doing so.

    Or, in layman's terms: Did your Mom drop you on your head when you were little?
  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:51AM (#19884633) Journal
    You should know something before you go congratulating Debbie Foster's lawyers for a job well done. The opinion slams them pretty hard.

    She asked for over $114,000 but the court only gave her about $68,000, because her lawyers charged too much. For example, the "docket in this case is replete with the defendant's supplemental and corrective filings designed to cure defects in motions and responses that should have been complete and correct when originally filed." (page 8). In other words, her lawyers screwed up, and had to fix their mistakes at her expense. Also, once they learned that she was the winner and their bills would be paid, they started "frenetic activity" which they billed her for. (page 9). Also, they nickel-and-dimed her to the tune of about $1,500 on things like copy and fax costs (they charged $1.50 per fax page, where the court found $0.20 to be "generous"). (page 13).

    Ouch.

    • In other words, her lawyers screwed up, and had to fix their mistakes at her expense. Also, once they learned that she was the winner and their bills would be paid, they started "frenetic activity" which they billed her for. (page 9). Also, they nickel-and-dimed her to the tune of about $1,500 on things like copy and fax costs (they charged $1.50 per fax page, where the court found $0.20 to be "generous"). (page 13).
      Now time to sue the lawyer!
      • I vote for adopting the Gowachin legal system. The role of the Gowachin Legum is to avoid litigation, and if they fail and the case has to go to trial the winning legum has to kill the loser.
    • They nickle and dimed the Capitol Records. Just because this is what they asked for in a ruling, doesn't mean that is what they were going to charge her. They might have even taken the case pro bono, and agreed to charge her nothing. Doesn't mean they can't still be awarded fees. Well when you are asking for an award from the court, you throw in everything you can think of. Reason is that you want to get as much form the other party as you can and the judge will rarely raise award you more than you ask for.
    • by keyne9 (567528)
      There exists no such thing as "good" lawyers, to be sure. But surely there is a "lesser of two evils" which is prudent to root for, in these cases.
    • by ghostlibrary (450718) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @07:36AM (#19886215) Homepage Journal
      A question-- is it likely her lawyers will just take the $68K and call it even, or will they bill her the ($114-68)=$46K and expect her to pay? How much is gamesmanship by the lawyers, and how much is genuine out-of-pocket costs to the defendent?
  • I thought The Law was there to protect the people, but continuous harrasment of the people by organisations with $$$ is perfectly ok.
    Stealing is not ok, but the penalties are way out of proportion and should be in line with the people you're punishing ("feel" the punichment equally (*1)) and not with what the corporations want.

    In Sweden AFAIK there is a system with fines that relate to your income. This sounds more fair to me.
    • I thought The Law was there to protect the people

      The law it to protect the people. It is to protect the people who write the law. Most of the people who write the law are lawyers. Until we have a proper separation of judiciary from executive and legislative branches (meaning that anyone involved with the judiciary is disqualified from standing for the other two branches) we will continue to see this kind of abuse. Do your part, and vote against any lawyers who stand for elected office.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @01:44AM (#19884855)
    In Soviet Russia, YOU sue the RIAA.. er... in America, YOU the RIAA sues... nevermind.
    • by ookabooka (731013)
      In Soviet Russia, RIAA pays you!!! hmm. . .actually that doesn't quite work. . .Yeah you're right, this one is hard.

      In Soviet Russia, RIAA countersues you!! Eh. . .atleast that one is the inverse of what happened here, good enough for government work I'd say.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @07:22AM (#19886129) Homepage Journal
    What's $68,000 to the RIAA? They blow $68,000 on human blood beverages in the conference room, every day. The gold slave collars they give the midgets who wash their balls cost more than that.
  • Capitol records have to pay Ms Foster money. The legal entity known as the RIAA does not owe anyone a dime.

    Please can we stop allowing the record companies to hide behind the RIAA? The RIAAs job is to shield record companies from bad publicity and keep their names out of messes like this.

    Why are all of you helping the RIAA? Why do you hate freedom and democracy so much ? Puppy killers!

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