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RIAA Complaint Dismissed as "Boilerplate" 197

Posted by Zonk
from the boil-this dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The decision many lawyers had been expecting — that the RIAA's 'boilerplate' complaint fails to state a claim for relief under the Copyright Act — has indeed come down, but from an unlikely source. While the legal community has been looking towards a Manhattan case (Elektra v. Barker) for guidance, the decision instead came from Senior District Court Judge Rudi M. Brewster of the US District Court for the Southern District of California. The decision handed down denied a default judgment (i.e. the defendant had not even appeared in the action). Judge Brewster not only denied the default judgment motion but dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Echoing the words of Judge Karas at the oral argument in Barker , Judge Brewster held (pdf) that 'Plaintiff here must present at least some facts to show the plausibility of their allegations of copyright infringement against the Defendant. However, other than the bare conclusory statement that on "information and belief" Defendant has downloaded, distributed and/or made available for distribution to the public copyrighted works, Plaintiffs have presented no facts that would indicate that this allegation is anything more than speculation.'"
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RIAA Complaint Dismissed as "Boilerplate"

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  • magine that riaa (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @06:54PM (#20596395) Homepage Journal
    you can't change reality with a lawsuit

    reality: your business model is history

    think up a new business model, and stop trying to prop up the dead one with the court system

    a new business model means less money? too bad. the golden age is over. fucking deal with it and stop sending your barking dogs to terrorize little people in your rage and frustration and denial

    • by click2005 (921437) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:01PM (#20596477)
      a new business model means less money? too bad. the golden age is over.

      Quite a few studies have shown that new business models would earn them even more money. It seems more that they aren't content with a slice of pie, they want it all. The notion of IP (intellectual property) has given them the excuse to try to get everything they can, even when things such as fair use and respecting your customers get in the way.
    • By frightening people, they are successfully slowing down the business model change which is a consequence of the IT revolution (or Industrial Revolution III).

      My guess is that they know it is dying - they just want a little bit more money before discarding the RIAA as "the evil force that forced us to force the old model - but we have a new one now, and we became good and nice).
    • Re:magine that riaa (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2@nospAm.anthonymclin.com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:38PM (#20596881) Homepage
      Bizarrely enough, your comment works equally well in the previous story regarding Verizon and the FCC radio spectrum auction [slashdot.org].
      • Bizarre? No. Logical (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:52PM (#20597015)
        It fits in many more cases. It fits in every case where some monopolist or a company that has some sort of a more or less monopoly position for some reason (because of patents or because there's only so many provider of a certain good or service) wants to continue milking his customers, knowing well that there are better and (for the customer) more favorable products available and most of the time even within his reach, but the outdated product or business model means more money for him.

        And I think that was one of the longest and most incomprehensible sentences I ever wrote.
    • by Pig Hogger (10379)

      you can't change reality with a lawsuit
      Yes you can:

      "Law is the ultimate science" -- Padishah Emperor Saddam Corrino IV

  • by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @06:55PM (#20596405) Homepage Journal
    What is the deal with this RIAA/MPAA situation? Are these organizations run by total morons? I'm not trolling, but it seems like they aren't putting one iota of serious effort into this. Are they so cynical, moneyed, and jaded, that they think nothing of suing mothers and teenagers apparently just for the hell of it? How can they do such a lousy effort this yet be one of the largest sectors of industry?

    The longer I live, the more I am in a state of sheer awe that society doesn't come apart like Britney Spears fan on youtube.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:01PM (#20596481) Homepage Journal

      How can they do such a lousy effort this yet be one of the largest sectors of industry?

      Perhaps they're more accustomed to people just rolling over with a chilling effects letter. Plenty of hard work keeps things finely tuned, it's evident that there have been a lot of legal people collecting retainer fees who have spent very little time practicing. Seriously, this is pretty amaturish.

    • by Atario (673917) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:07PM (#20596543) Homepage
      It's the same reason people continue to spam.

      Even if it only works a vanishingly small percentage of the time, applying a tiny effort to loads of people still results in a net gain.

      (Except, of course, when you factor in the damage to reputation, but that never stopped the unscrupulous before...)
      • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:39PM (#20596885) Homepage
        Well that's their theory anyway. Whether it is borne out in practice remains to be seen. Clearly it works for SPAM, but these lawsuits clearly cost more to implement than the plaintiffs are receiving in awards. Their hope rests solely on recouping their costs through deterrence, although it's unclear that a decrease in piracy would equate to an increase in sales, so their reasoning may be somewhat flawed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Eivind Eklund (5161)
          It's not clear that it is unprofitable. There's only a few boilerplate letters per "lawsuit", and most are settled at $3000 or so. That's a heck of a lot of money for a mailing few letters.

          Eivind.

          • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:24PM (#20598445) Homepage Journal

            It's not clear that it is unprofitable. There's only a few boilerplate letters per "lawsuit", and most are settled at $3000 or so. That's a heck of a lot of money for a mailing few letters.
            Actually, Eivind,

            -only about 20% of the cases result in settlements, and

            the RIAA is losing millions of dollars on the litigations.

            They make money on quick settlements; they lose money on default judgments; they lose a lot of money on cases that litigate for awhile and then settle; and they lose a fortune on cases where the defendant fights back.
            • Ah, cool, I'm glad to hear that. Thanks! (And thanks for the work you do around this; even though it isn't in my country, it is appreciated.)
              • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @11:03PM (#20598735) Homepage Journal

                Ah, cool, I'm glad to hear that. Thanks! (And thanks for the work you do around this; even though it isn't in my country, it is appreciated.)
                Thanks for your kind words, Eivind.

                I hope your country remains free of this plague, but I will tell you it's an international thing.... they're certainly persecuting people throughout Europe, except for the Netherlands, where the courts astutely saw through their scam from the outset.
                • by rts008 (812749) on Friday September 14, 2007 @01:08AM (#20599613) Journal
                  BTW, Thanks for not only the work you do in this field (as Eivind said), but also a hearty thanks for you spending time on /. giving us your professional insight. It does make a difference to those of us that actually pay attention to this crap. (not to dis you, but this whole MPAA/RIAA extravaganza is crap a lot of the time-but not all)

                  Having worked in NYC, and having friends in Watertown, NY, I would not insult you inadvertently by abbreviating your UID as NYCLawyer!...instead I will use NY Country Lawyer if I feel the need to abbreviate.

                  Lawyers have a bad rep on /. , but you are (at least to me) the exception to the /. rule, and a credit to your profession.

                  I've kept track of your posts over the past several years here, and feel good about the fact that you are on *our* side.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Are these organizations run by total morons?
      No, they are run by zealots with a particular belief system. Society doesn't come apart like a fan on youtube because such zealots and fans, while capable of inspiring "sheer awe" in their lunacy, don't actually represent the "reasonable persons", the silent majority who actually Do Something Useful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sheetrock (152993)

      They're caught up with the idea that they can continue to play the game by the old rules. They still seem convinced that the Internet will possess and distribute content solely by the terms of copyright holders. Their efforts to deal with copyright violations are disproportionally stick to carrot, and any benefits technology brings to the table with regard to low-cost distribution and promotion are set aside in pursuit of abusing technology to restrict distribution and limit choice.

      Irregardless of the e

      • You needn't even include a ticket for a concert. Add a lottery ticket for one to a concert of some "star" and you'll already see people buy. Hell, I wouldn't call it impossible that there are some who'd buy two or more just because they 'have' to win that ticket.
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:46PM (#20596949) Homepage Journal
      Uhhh, since when is music "one of the largest sectors of industry"?

      Total music industry revenue is about $40 billion worldwide, and about $12 billion in the United States, per year.

      The GDP of the United States is $13.13 trillion, per year.

      Compare this to "self storage" companies which make about $22.6 billion, per year.

      Companies that supply lock up garages for people who own too much crap make almost twice as much per year as the music industry.

      • by djdavetrouble (442175) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @08:18PM (#20597381) Homepage
        damn them both, the profiteers! I spend thousands of dollars on vinyl records each year, and have been forced to house the better part of my collection (about 100 crates last time I moved them)
        in a self storage unit (small manhattan apartment). I think they are actually in cahoots !!!!
      • Pirates are using self storage to hide all of the millions of pirates CDs and DVDs that the Music and Movie industry have been claiming as losses, thus giving a huge boost to the self storage industry.

        (but really, thank you for pointing out how small the music industry really is). I'd also like to mention that more new books are published each year than music CDs. There are around 3 million authors in the US alone. (sorry I don't have the data to back it up, I read it somewhere and couldn't find any info t
      • by MacWiz (665750) <gzieman54@g m a il.com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @11:37PM (#20598975) Journal
        And that $12 billion is more like $10 billion, but even then that's only how much it would have been if everyone had paid the "manufacturer's suggested retail price". Reality is closer to $6 billion.
      • by Shirotae (44882) on Friday September 14, 2007 @03:35AM (#20600317)

        If the $40 billion per year figure is right then it is smaller than Dell's annual revenue and less than half HP's. Of course, selling high performance CD and DVD copying equipment is only a part of their business but you will find it hard to get a consumer PC that does not include at least the hardware you need for the unauthorised copying that ??AA like to call piracy. Looking up the financials, it looks as if the consumer PC hardware business for just those two is over $10 billion per year and there are quite a few other companies out there too. I don't have time to look up the size of the blank media business - what the ??AA probably think of as "piracy supplies" - but given the shelves full of the things I see in my local supermarket, I suspect we have a respectable sized business there too.

        I suspect that if someone does the real numbers the economic argument will not be so favourable to ??AA.

      • by greenbird (859670) * on Friday September 14, 2007 @04:05AM (#20600441)

        Total music industry revenue is about $40 billion worldwide, and about $12 billion in the United States, per year.

        But you see, that's because they're losing $1.4 trillion due to piracy. There have been studies done proving this. For every song downloaded they are losing the $20 dollars the downloader would have payed for the CD. And don't get me started on the massive losses those leach radio stations are causing. They've got dozens of studies back this stuff up. Just ask them.

    • by JoelKatz (46478) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:49PM (#20596983)
      The suit to follow is Tanya Andersen's. She has initiated a class action suit on behalf of all innocent people who have been harassed and bullied by RIAA lawyers. In Andersen v. Atlantic, the RIAA will have to defend itself against charges of malicious prosecution, and her case looks like a winner.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      they think nothing of suing mothers and teenagers apparently just for the hell of it?

      Some people are trying to justify their job. They're in major stress, and stupid. So they sue mothers and teenagers.

      You know, it's the outcome of the system we exist in. Doesn't justify their nonsense, but I thought I'd put things in a little perspective for you.

      The moment that worries me is that it took long, long time for the legal system to start (albeit slowly) reacting against those frivolous suits.

      RIAA as a private or
      • by Artifakt (700173)
        Some people are trying to justify their job. They're in major stress, and stupid

        I don't know about the stupid part, but the rest is spot on.

        When rap and hip-hop caught on, some artists were actually anti-establishment enough to advocate stealing their CDs in their lyrics. Physical theft by shoplifing rose to five or six times what was usual for a CD release for some Rap CDs, and many retailers had to swiftly adopt bulky frames to surround the normal CD packaging. It was the same people who had to go before
    • Morons? No. It's run by people whose primary concern is income/expense ratios, who are also used to "winning". Dangerous combination for your corporate ego (read: your expectations how things continue to run).

      It's less expense to file a boilerplate suit than a "real" one. They are used to winning. Connect the dots.
  • The penalties are not fair and way excessive. The Mpaa has records of all P2p filesharing transactions throught 3rd parties who monitor. Penalties should be spread around to everyone and no a few. $10-20 fine would be good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_infringement [wikipedia.org]

    Many people object to the application of copyright to not for profit (or at a loss) distribution or redistribution of copyrighted works. When copyright was created, it was to prevent book publishers from taking an author's work, publis
    • by MollyB (162595) *

      However, when financial gain isn't involved, as in peer-to-peer file sharing, [...]
      Isn't that the crux of **AA's original objection to file sharing? That downloaders=freeloaders were cutting into their potential financial gain since "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free"? I think they'll twist/spin the copyright angle until judges slap them down over and over.
    • The theory in passing the laws seemed to be that there was no way of actually catching a significant amount of copyright infringers and suing them, so the fines were really high to provide a huge disincentive to steal. In real life, it's getting to the point where the RIAA/MPAA is just suing everyone. The laws need an updating.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      The penalties are not fair and way excessive. The Mpaa has records of all P2p filesharing transactions throught 3rd parties who monitor. Penalties should be spread around to everyone and no a few. $10-20 fine would be good.

      You're making me laugh. The fines were originally created to penalize organized crime groups creating bootleg video/audio casettes bring them enormous profits from the copying of a single product.

      Fining them $10-$20 for distributing 30 thousand copies of Die Hard 4 would be hysterical.

      The
      • by zymano (581466)
        No no. I didn't explain that part.

        10 to 20 for individual downloaders. Not huge fines for a single uploader.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MikeBabcock (65886)
        Many people disagree with your judgment on morality and justice. In fact we Canadians have made it perfectly legal to make private copies of music for personal use, no questions asked. Just borrow your friend's CD and rip it to your heart's content, my Sony PS3 even does it for me.

        We also allow private copying *and* unmodified redistribution of anything broadcast over public airwaves.

        Just because these companies have spent so much money convincing you what you're doing is wrong does not mean it is in fact
      • by zymano (581466)
        Are you seriously trying to compare an Iphone to music which is mass produced onto plastic discs?

        Try comparing it to photographing a photo or taping a concert and NOT SELLING the music.

        Your analogies are weak.
    • Isn't it ironic that the same organisations who should be kept from ripping off creators of art by copyright are now using the same laws to do just that? And rip off the customers as well, while they're at it.

      I think this would be a very appropriate case of the old saying about lemons and lemonade.
      • "I think this would be a very appropriate case of the old saying about lemons and lemonade."

        Yeah, "When life gives you lemons, find someone who has vodka and throw a party."...wait, that doesn't sound quite right...

        I believe you're looking for sayings involving Pots, Kettles, and a the color #000000.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      The penalties are not fair and way excessive. The Mpaa has records of all P2p filesharing transactions throught 3rd parties who monitor. Penalties should be spread around to everyone and no a few. $10-20 fine would be good.

      No, the judge just said that they didn't. So you're probably talking about some sort of levy, or (as I'm guessing from the rest of your post) to talk yourself into a moral position where copyright can't be enforced. Well sorry, but it's crap. It's like saying to the officer "hey you only
    • The MPAA does not have records of all P2P filesharing transactions. Period. Take off your tin foil hat and get outdoors for some fresh air.
      • by click2005 (921437)
        The MPAA does not have records of all P2P filesharing transactions.

        True, they just assume you are unless you can prove otherwise.
  • No facts? Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bonewalker (631203) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:01PM (#20596479)
    "Plaintiffs have presented no facts." This is exactly right, and can likely be far more broadly applied than just this case. I think the best argument most folks have is that it is very hard to tie an IP address to a specific user. And they think that just because they provide a screenshot with a list of songs on it that that is damning evidence. Hooray for this judge who has seen through the rhetoric.
    • My thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:07PM (#20596549) Homepage Journal
      Screenshot? could be photoshopped.
      Text Log? could be edited.

      If instead of that, you have a text log, verified by the ISP and with a signed statement asserting that this text log effectively shows that the given binary conversation took place at the given time, and that the receiving end has a given MAC address, and if that MAC address can be certainly confirmed as belonging to the accused, now THAT's a completely different story.
      • if that MAC address can be certainly confirmed as belonging to the accused
        My router spoofs your momma's MAC address...

        Cheers!
      • by dwandy (907337)

        and if that MAC address can be certainly confirmed as belonging to the accused
        then we would still not know who committed the recorded infringement: just who is the current owner of a piece of hardware that is allegedly used in an infringement.

        And so unless they plan to take a network interface card to court, they still know nothing.

        • I think that's going a bit too far. If you can track it to a piece of hardware and that hardware is set up in a residence then I think it's fair game to go after the owner. It's like on COPS when they arrest a driver when there's crack in a car, but they don't know who's it is.

          Disclaimer: IANAL, I'm not even american and make absolutely no claim to being an expert in your laws. Plus, I still think suing your target market is one of the most idiotic tactics in the business world today.
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        The only MAC address my ISP sees is that of my wireless router (which is also configurable).
      • But how do they know that the contents of the files are actually their copyrighted works? I could cat /dev/urandom into some files with .mp3 extensions and share those.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cpt kangarooski (3773)
        Screenshot? could be photoshopped.
        Text Log? could be edited.


        Bear in mind that there is a difference between alleged facts and true facts. For example, imagine a murder trial where one witness says that the defendant was at the scene of the murder, and another witness says the defendant was at home. At least one of these witnesses has to be wrong, possibly both are. The testimony of both are alleged facts, and the trier of fact (often a jury) has to decide what is actually true or not for purposes of the tri
    • I'd be interested in seeing exactly what constitutes their 'boilerplate' level of evidence. A third parties recorded snooping? Whatever it is, hasn't it been sufficient enough for most settlements and court proceedings, making this judgement a fluke, and not a new precedent?
      • by tftp (111690)
        If you look at the original complaint you will see that there is no link to the defendant, and no proof that the list of a few MP3 files is real, was captured in a reliable way, or links to any specific computer at all. Basically, the question is where did the name of the defendant come from? The complaint, as is, is no better than just a randomly generated letter that accuses citizen $foo of infringement $bar, where $foo is assigned from a phone book and $bar is assigned from top music charts, with no proo
        • I am curious about how much of an fishing expedition they could go on if they got someone on the stand?

          Let's say they do, somehow, manage to use a prove-nothing Boilerplate get Joe Downloader into court. He argues that their evidence means nothing. They then put him on the stand, and ask "Did you download these mp3s?"

          Let's say Joe actually did. Is the RIAA allowed to ask a broad, point-blank question like this? If he says "No", he's perjuring himself. Can he refuse to answer on the grounds that the

          • by jstomel (985001)
            Well, in America you have a right not to testify against yourself. They can't put you on the stand in your own trial. Of course, if you're stupid enough to take the stand voluntarily...
          • You misapprehend the nature of the court. Matters of law are decided previous to a jury trial. Getting to a jury trial in a civil case is a very big hurdle. I.e., the judge has decided that the situation merits the jury before you get to the jury, in a civil case.

            C//
      • I'd be interested in seeing exactly what constitutes their 'boilerplate' level of evidence.


        Evidence isn't at issue; this is a complaint, evidence hadn't even been presented yet. What this ruling says is that they didn't make specific enough allegations to even have a complaint that the defendant was obligated to respond to.

        • do you mean that the initial complaint should list information like the song, artist, copyright holder, date, and time of infringement? If so, then I agree, but doubt it will be that hard for them to comply.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vokyvsd (979677)
      No no no no no! Plaintiffs should not have a "plausibility" requirement based on facts presented in the complaint. They are required to present a plausible case if they wish to win, of course, but the facts of the case should be presented after the discovery phase of the lawsuit, during which time they are able to use certain legal tools to aid them in finding the exact facts and natures of the violations.

      Requiring the specific facts that make a "plausible" claim upon which relief may be granted to be pre
      • Ok, but playing the devil's advocate...it appears in this case to be protecting the little guy against a big bully. Otherwise, how can thousands of individuals with little or no money for a trial even consider going all the way to the discovery phase? They will just settle and the RIAA wins everytime and makes money simply by implying that someone broke the law having no real evidence, yet, to prove it. And that brings us full circle to the problems we have now. Bullies vs. the little guys. They would ALWAY
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by vokyvsd (979677)
          Funny you should bring that point up: Bell Atlantic was a class action suit brought up against a big corporation by the little guy, who couldn't even get to discovery because the Supreme Court decided to add a plausibility requirement to complaints.

          Basically, either way is going to leave open avenues for litigious bullying. However, with the new requirement, when the little guy brings a lawsuit against the big guy, and the court decides that the little guy hasn't stated a plausible claim, that's it - there
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      "Plaintiffs have presented no facts." This is exactly right, and can likely be far more broadly applied than just this case. I think the best argument most folks have is that it is very hard to tie an IP address to a specific user. And they think that just because they provide a screenshot with a list of songs on it that that is damning evidence. Hooray for this judge who has seen through the rhetoric.

      You've hit it right on the head, Bonewalker. The Emperor wears no clothes. And Judge Brewster had the courage to make the call.

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:08PM (#20596555) Homepage Journal
    The members of the RIAA have been enriching themselves as (essentially) statutory middlemen. For decades, any music you listened to came to you through their distribution system; there was no other option.

    This internet thing blows their monopoly apart - there's a new method of distribution that's cheaper, faster, and out of the control of the music companies. This presents a problem to them: their "money for nothing" gravy train is threatened. It's no surprise that they're using every tool they can to stop reality from sending them to the realm of the irrelevant.

    But since they haven't worked for their money for years, when it comes to taking legal action they don't seem to be willing to put forth an effort there either. This latest decision is an interesting one; significant enough by itself, but it'll cause some big changes for a lot of people...

  • by saveourskyline (1103211) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:09PM (#20596569)
    FTA [p2pnet.net]:

    II. BACKGROUND

    Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendant on November 14, 2007, alleging copyright infringement. According to the complaint, Defendant used and continued to use an online media distribution system...

    The RIAA is using time machines now to go forward in time and file complaints in the future? Now that's just not fair...
    • Looks like they've neglected to apply the appropriate rules from Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations as well.
  • harder for the RIAA. Must they now provide solid evidence of a crime verses their word that one occurred? Does this me there must be a burden of proof and not just speculation, lies and innuendo? Film at 11.
    • Must they now provide solid evidence of a crime verses their word that one occurred?


      Its not a criminal case, but a civil one so "crime" is mostly irrelevant. This isn't about proof, either. This is about the degree of specificity required in the allegations in the original filing for there even to be a case.

    • by tftp (111690)
      More importantly here RIAA asked for a default judgement - such as one without the defendant and without the trial. Such a judgement requires some proof that something bad happened and the accused did it. For example if you don't challenge the traffic cop's accusation of speeding and don't show up in court then you will be pronounced guilty by default, just on the word of the police. But there is no state-regulated police here, just a page of mp3 songs and a single IP address, and a date in 2005. The IP add
      • The judge gave the plaintiffs 30 days to redo the complaint, but considering that it took them two years to come up with this abomination there is a good chance that they will let this case go. There is another reason to not refile - the judge made it known that he does not genuflect in front of the big business.

        Sorry to rain on your parade, tftp, but

        1. they filed an amended complaint

        2. Judge Brewster is retiring, and the case is being reassigned to another judge.

  • the sad fact (Score:2, Interesting)

    by superwiz (655733)
    Is that this blabber of legalese is now legitimate tech news.
    • What's sad is that it's now a requirement to be at least part lawyer if you want to spend your income on what you want, and in freedom.
  • 1980s laws (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blhack (921171) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:26PM (#20596781)
    The laws governing copyright infringement need to be updated. The laws on the books today (or at least their ideologies) were written in a pre-internet era. Back then, pirating large amounts of media in the fashion that we easily can today WAS a serious crime because it actually took a criminal to do it. using the laws of then to govern today is like using an early 20th century speed limit to fine somebody driving a ferrari, or other ultra-high-performance race car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There is no legal principle that grants an exemption from criminality or civil liability because technology has made the wrong easier to commit. The seriousness is always judged by the amount of damage caused.

         
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:36PM (#20596863) Homepage Journal
    Remove "INSERT NAME HERE" from boilerplate when filling in the forms to sue people.

    Hmm. Someone should write a perl script to help them. Snag a baby naming database and write a perl script to randomize the names, files shared and IP addresses to output an official-sounding C&D&Pay-us Email. Kinda like foggy, but for a legal document. Yeah. That'd be cool. And probably as accurate and effective as the system they're using now...

    • I was already wondering whether they send their cease and desist letters through spam mailers today...
  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:49PM (#20596985) Homepage Journal

    They call themselves the RIAA, but really, they represent companies like Sony, UMG, Time-Warner, etc... The RIAA moniker is used to keep their activities from reflecting poorly on the sponsoring companies.

    You know what's interesting? When I was younger, I had heard things about pop music being evil, then rock music being evil, and certainly, gangsta rap was evil. I just kind of dismissed them, thinking, how could listening to music be evil?

    Turns out, I was asking the wrong question. The problem wasn't in listening to the music, so much as it was that my paying for music was funding evil things, directly and indirectly. Sure, rappers talking about killing cops isn't a good thing, but it wasn't as nearly as bad as what music purchasers were doing by feeding the record companies:

    • I didn't think about it at the time, but the record companies indirectly supported things like drug addiction, misogynism, and even satanism through the bands they promoted.
    • I didn't know that I was financing the exploitation of musicians. It wouldn't be until years later that I would learn that record company contracts often leave the band in debt to the record company, as the record company makes record revenues off the music.
    • I didn't know that the money I used to buy CD's would later be used to sue single mothers and teenagers.

    I can't remember the last time I bought a CD. In fact, I'm probably one of those lost sales the RIAA blames on piracy. The thought that someone might not buy their music because they object to their lack of morality and common decency doesn't even occur to them. They think everyone else is just like them - greedy, money grubbers who can't stand the notion of actually paying for music. (After all, the RIAA member companies do their best to avoid paying the musicians).

    You don't need to explain why you don't patronize the RIAA member companies like Sony, etc... Instead, ask the question, "What good has the RIAA done for music, musicians, and society in general?"

    The silence will be deafening.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by swordgeek (112599)
      So let's see here...

      I agree with you. I do. And yet, my brother is a professional musician, and most of the artists I like are barely making ends meet.

      How can the artists make a living. The RIAA, for all of its dirty behaviour, at least provided _some_ income for artists--your method provides none.

      This has always been the struggle for me: How can I actually support artists (which I will willingly do!) but not the RIAA (who screws the musicians worse than they screw the consumers)?

      Any ideas? Without the arti
      • by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:42PM (#20598569) Homepage Journal
        Well, I hate to break it to you, but artists really don't make a living. Be it music, painting, theater, acrobatics; it doesn't matter. You just can't do enough to make ends meet. That's why we have the term 'starving artist'.

        Any ideas? Without the artists being able to make a living, we'll end up with no dedicated artists at all.
        If you want dedicated artists, you'll either have to have the state pay for it ( good luck selling that in America ) , or have sponsorships of wealthy patrons and corporations ( selling out, anyone? ). All of the classical music that we get from the middle ages was paid for by the sponsorship of a wealthy patron or financed by the church ( which is why so much is religious ). Folk songs are songs that people sang when the got done working in the fields. The troubadour of medieval Europe was a combination musician, storyteller, and message- and news-carrier -- and also a wandering, starving vagabond. Your local opera, dance ensemble, or theater group exists on government grants, wealthy donors, and perhaps a trust fund. Art is not something that puts food in your mouth. It's something you do after you've put food in your mouth, in order to give your life meaning and a reason to get up in the morning.

        The ability to make a living as a musician in the past 100 years has depended on the difficulty of production and distribution of music recordings, and the willingness of the artists to go on tour. Needless to say, the record companies raked in the lion's share of the proceeds, leaving the recording, performing musician mostly broke. A few people became super stars, which a few generations of suckers for the record labels to exploit, preying on their hopes of becoming famous and rich. Few people became famous; even less became rich. And those that did become rich made their money from performing; record sales, not so much.

        Now we have come full circle: music recording and distribution has become so cheap, you don't have that revenue stream available anymore. Musicians who do make a living as musicians will do so by going around performing, just as they did before the 20th century. And the idea that musicians were actually able to make a decent living as recording artists during the 20th century is really a myth -- successful musicians, even those who sold lots of albums, made their money from touring. The record companies took most of the profits from record sales. Sure there were a number of popular musicians, but there were many more who never made any money off of it.

        Most people with a Masters of Fine Arts who actually still paint ( and I know a few of them ) have a day job. A few of them are lucky enough to teach college kids to paint. The rest sell weed and/or are starving.

        So, being a full time artist is a pipe dream for many people. It many sound like a downer, but I look at it the other way -- for human history, art has always been a folk expression. People got together in the village after they were done in the fields and danced and sang. Simple as that. Your brother will have a hard time making a living solely as an artist, but he can get a 9-to-5 and perform at some bars a few nights a week, release an album every few years, and have a damn lot of fun doing it, all without starving ;)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Card Zero (1126075)

          It many sound like a downer, but I look at it the other way -- for human history, art has always been a folk expression. People got together in the village after they were done in the fields and danced and sang. Simple as that.

          One very important aspect of the Renaissance was the very successful PR campaign (spearheaded by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Durer) to increase the status and pay of the artist. They had been seen throughout the Middle Ages as humble craftstmen, on the same social and economic level as carpenters and others who worked with their hands. It was largely due to the efforts of these artists to gain status that the idea that art was necessarily an intellectual and creative pursuit came into being

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by akpoff (683177)
        Buy tickets to their concerts; buy CDs directly from the band or their website; buy other band crap like t-shirts, mugs, stickers; if they put their music online in places like magnatune [magnatune.com] or cdbaby [cdbaby.com] buy it there; use their online tip jar if they have one; if they're "nobodies" bring pizza to their jam sessions.

        There are plenty of ways. We just need to use them.

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao&hotmail,com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @08:52PM (#20597699) Homepage
    Falken: I never could get Joshua to learn the most important lesson.
    Lightman: What's that?
    Falken: Futility. That there's a time when you should just give up.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:32PM (#20598039) Homepage

    I wouldn't get too enthusiastic about this being a way out from under these lawsuits. It's a good win, but it's on very technical grounds and easy for the RIAA to deal with if they have even a shred of a tenuous case.

    It's mainly about the technical requirements for a filing. Let's take the hypothetical case of me suing you for having stolen a car from my car lot. All I state in my complaint is that on information and belief I think you stole a car from me, and I attach a long list of cars (make, model, VIN, plate number, etc.). The problems with this complaint at this level are:

    • I haven't specified a crime. I've made an accusation, but where in there do I say what car was stolen, when it was stolen or where it was stolen from? Essentially the complaint can't say "You stole a car." but has to say "You stole this car.". And what's that list? I never say in the complaint whether it's a list of cars I allege you stole, a list of all the cars I have of which the one you stole is one. It could even be a list of all the cars left on my lot after the theft. Without some mention of what the list is, it's meaningless.
    • Even assuming the above is corrected, there are no facts alleged connecting you to the incident. The bar here is low. I don't have to offer enough to prove my case. I don't have to offer anything credible enough to survive even a cursory response from you. But I have to offer some speck of evidence that, if believed completely and not responded to at all by you, could possibly be grounds for finding in my favor.
    That's basically what the judge found here: the RIAA had failed on those two points. The bad news is that it's fairly easy for the RIAA to fix this. Name a song, name a file on the list that contained it, and allege that you were offering it for download to them and the first part's dealt with. As for the second, alleging the files were offered by a particular IP address along with a statement by the ISP that that IP address was assigned to a particular person's account at the time in question suffices. There's lots of technical problems with it, but it meets the minimal bar involved. The good news is that even those minor fixes give the defendant more places to attack the RIAA's complaint. For instance, if they allege a particular file contains some specific song, the defendant can respond by asserting that that file contains something that'd justify it's name but isn't the song in question.

    I suspect the RIAA got tripped up here because they never intended these cases to go to court. The filings were supposed to be merely clubs to wave at people to get them to settle, they were never supposed to actually be looked at as real lawsuits. We're going to see a lot of these for a while, but we're going to see a second round from the RIAA with these sorts of obvious errors fixed as they react to people actually fighting back. I'm not a lawyer, but I think one piece of advice is warranted: don't pick questionable defendants to fight this second wave. Pick ones that really are clean and can prove it and fight the RIAA on those. It's much easier to win judges over when you can present solid evidence in your favor, and much easier to fight the questionable defendants when you've got previous clean wins to cite.

    • I wouldn't get too enthusiastic about this being a way out from under these lawsuits. It's a good win, but it's on very technical grounds and easy for the RIAA to deal with if they have even a shred of a tenuous case.
      With all due respect, Todd, on this one you are dead wrong. The reason the RIAA hasn't drafted better pleadings isn't because their lawyers don't have enough competence to draft a pleading.... it's because they don't have any evidence that the defendant infringed their copyrights . This case goes to the very core of what is wrong with the RIAA's whole campaign. And this decision may well be the beginning of the end.
      • by kwandar (733439)
        Perhaps you can explain why they aren't using (and I hear dropping) the "made available" argument. I have a selfish interest as the Canada's Parliament keeps suggesting they will pass legislation implementing the "make available" sections of WIPO. BTW, really, thank you for these articles and posts. I always read NewYorkCountrylawyer posts/articles first!
        • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @11:43PM (#20599023) Homepage Journal

          Perhaps you can explain why they aren't using (and I hear dropping) the "made available" argument. I have a selfish interest as the Canada's Parliament keeps suggesting they will pass legislation implementing the "make available" sections of WIPO. BTW, really, thank you for these articles and posts. I always read NewYorkCountrylawyer posts/articles first!
          You're good.

          I guess you read Canada's own p2pnet.net [p2pnet.net] by Jon Newton.

          Actually, I can only speculate what is going on in RIAA-land.

          All I know is that, in the wake of the Interscope v. Rodriguez decision, which forced them to come up with an amended complaint, they filed an amended complaint [blogspot.com] which totally omitted the "making available" theory.

          I'll be doing a post on the possible implications of this, but as to their reason, my guess is they did it because

          1. they know that it's an invalid argument, having no basis in the statute, in caselaw, or in legal scholarship, and

          2. the Bell Atlantic v. Twombly [cornell.edu] decision gives them a way to back down gracefully.
  • ha (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @11:11PM (#20598801) Homepage
    However, other than the bare conclusory statement that on "information and belief" Defendant has downloaded, distributed and/or made available for distribution to the public copyrighted works

    Speaking as a lawyer who has used that term in complaints: anytime you see the words "upon information and belief", that means "ummm...theoretically this might have maybe could have happened".
  • For only a couple of dollars, it is possible to review the current case information using the PACER electronic file access system [uscourts.gov]. Interscope Record, et al., filed an amended complaint on August 23, 2007. The amended complaint goes beyond stating that the plaintiffs were "informed and believe that the Defendant" pirated their works:

    12. Users of P2P networks who distribute files over a network can be identified by using Internet Protocol ("IP") addresses because the unique IP address of the computer offe

  • Crystal clear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stanislav_J (947290) on Friday September 14, 2007 @04:41AM (#20600587)

    This situation, more than any so far, blatantly exposes the true motives of the RIAA. They never intended for any of these cases to actually go to trial. The whole effort is a shakedown, a scare tactic to quickly extort some cash through intimidation and fear and hopefully provide a deterrent to others not to infringe. If they wanted to, they could build more solid cases with more convincing evidence, but that would take far more time, effort, and expense than they are willing to put into it. Believe it or not, their legal eagles are probably involved in far weightier and more important matters than suing a handful of file sharers. To build a case that will hold up in court for each and every one of these people would be extremely cost-ineffective.

    To me, this is very much like credit card companies or other creditors who threaten to sue for collection of very small debts. They don't want to actually go to court to get that couple of thousand bucks you owe -- they know that the expenses of doing so would far outweigh the debt. (And getting a judgement is one thing -- actually collecting the money is another.) They merely hope that having a deputy show up at your front door with some scary looking legal papers in hand will be intimidating enough to motivate you to somehow scrape up some dough to settle the case.

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