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New Attorneys Fee Decision Against RIAA 144

Posted by Zonk
from the maybe-you-should-reconsider-your-strategy dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA has gotten slammed again, this time in Oregon, as the Magistrate Judge in Atlantic v. Andersen has ruled that Tanya Andersen's motion for attorneys fees should be granted. The Magistrate, in his 15-page decision, noted that, despite extensive pretrial discovery proceedings, 'when plaintiffs dismissed their claims in June 2007, they apparently had no more material evidence to support their claims than they did when they first contacted defendant in February 2005.....' and concluded that 'Copyright holders generally, and these plaintiffs specifically, should be deterred from prosecuting infringement claims as plaintiffs did in this case.' This is the same case in which (a) the RIAA insisted on interrogating Ms. Andersen's 10-year-old girl at a face-to-face deposition, (b) the defendant filed RICO counterclaims against the record companies, and (c) the defendant recently converted her RICO case into a class action"
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New Attorneys Fee Decision Against RIAA

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  • Precedent! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superbus1929 (1069292) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @04:26AM (#20717605) Homepage
    It seems like 9/10 of rulings in America are based on the ideal of precedent; it's worked a certain way in the past, so we see no reason to go against the grain.

    There are a lot of precedents being set against the RIAA lately, and it leads me to believe that maybe... just maybe... there's light at the end of this tunnel.
    • by MarkRose (820682) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @04:30AM (#20717633) Homepage

      There are a lot of precedents being set against the RIAA lately, and it leads me to believe that maybe... just maybe... there's light at the end of this tunnel.

      Tunnel indeed. Hopefully this legal diariaa will have this shit cleared out of the tubes quickly and regularity can be restored.

    • maybe... just maybe... there's light at the end of this tunnel.
      Are you sure that's not the light from an oncoming train? I hope you're right. What are we doing in this tunnel anyway?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nrgy (835451)
        I don't know why we are in a tunnel but it sure does smell like ASS in here.
    • Re:Precedent! (Score:5, Informative)

      by StormReaver (59959) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @07:28AM (#20718161)
      Lower court decisions, such as this one, do not set precendents in any court other than their own. If the RIAA were to bring another similar case before this particular court, then this decision could be used to argue attorney fees against the RIAA. No other court is required to consider this result in its own decision.

      If the decision is appealed and upheld, then a precendent has been set for the circuit in which it was appealed. All lower courts within that one circuit would be required to apply the appeals court's decision in all subsequent similar cases.

      See this article [wikipedia.org] for details.
      • Re:Precedent! (Score:5, Informative)

        by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @07:57AM (#20718277) Homepage Journal

        Lower court decisions, such as this one, do not set precendents in any court other than their own.
        1. That is an overly simplistic view. Yes if there is an appellate decision in one circuit that is binding authority over all district court decisions within that circuit, and it is usually the only absolutely binding authority, other than Supreme Court decisions, on each district court within that circuit.

        2. But it is very very rare that any case is ever determined on the basis of an absolutely binding higher court authority. Almost invariably, where there is such authority available, the attorneys have figured that out long ago and there is no litigation to "decide".

        3. Most briefs that are submitted cite plenty of non-binding judicial authorities, and even where they are citing binding higher authority, it is usually based on vastly different sets of facts.

        4. There are numerous issues in the RIAA cases that will be decided on the basis of the fact that the RIAA has both brought, and pressed, numerous frivolous cases, with no evidence that the defendant committed a copyright infringement, just as was done in the Andersen case. And in those cases it continues to try to extort a "settlement" from the defendant even though it knows it has no case against the defendant. And in those cases where the defendant hangs tough, and is willing to see the case through to its conclusion and a jury trial.... the RIAA drops the case, as it did here. See, e.g., Capitol v. Foster [blogspot.com], Elektra v. Santangelo [blogspot.com], and Elektra v. Wilke [blogspot.com]. This recurring phenomenon will be relevant to future attorneys fees decisions, to possible sanctions motions against the record companies and their attorneys, to the record companies' claims of a "Noerr Pennington" defense which is not applicable to "sham" litigations, to claims of copyright misuse, and numerous other issues, in all district courts across the country, and will be cited by appellate courts when these cases finally do get to the appellate courts -- an event the RIAA is trying to avoid.

        So yes. This judge's recognition of the RIAA's tactics is a very important precedent.
        • by Ajehals (947354)
          Slightly off topic, however if you have the time...

          You have explained the situation rather neatly, and in itself the system seems fairly straight forward (in so far as any legal procedure can be), but I note that you have not indicated an opinion of the system (not that you needed to). Id be interested to know if you thought that the system you described regarding precedents, where they are established and where they are valid is satisfactory, or, if you would prefer either that each case be judged purely
          • Re:Precedent! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:38AM (#20718985) Homepage Journal

            Id be interested to know if you thought that the system you described regarding precedents, where they are established and where they are valid is satisfactory, or, if you would prefer either that each case be judged purely on its own merits,
            Precedent is part of the rule of law in our system. Asking judges to decide "each case on its own merits", without regard to legal principles that have been worked out over the years, would

            -leave too much to chance

            -heighten unpredictability, and

            -wreak havoc on our ability to plan our lives. I.e., it would be a step towards lawlessness.
        • I thought that I should go on record as saying 'Thank You'. You are an asset to my understanding of the legal morass that defines this mess. Thank you for you posts, thank you for posting them, and thank you for being one of the good guys.
        • "3. Most briefs that are submitted cite plenty of non-binding (emphasis mine) judicial authorities, and even where they are citing binding higher authority, it is usually based on vastly different sets of facts."

          With all of that being true (IANAL, unlike yourself, so I won't counter-argue), that is why I consider them to not count for much. The non-binding decisions are a gamble for citation, whereas a binding precedent is something that can be relied upon. I would consider this court decision to be a fal
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Actually, this "court" doesn't set any precedent at all. Magistrate "judges" aren't actually judges: they're Article II employees, created by Congress, who serve at the whim of actual judges, i.e. Article III Judges.

        Magistrate Judges cannot actually do anything: their entire power comes from their parent district court's approval.
        • Re:Precedent! (Score:5, Informative)

          by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @08:44AM (#20718455) Homepage Journal

          Actually, this "court" doesn't set any precedent at all. Magistrate "judges" aren't actually judges: they're Article II employees, created by Congress, who serve at the whim of actual judges, i.e. Article III Judges. Magistrate Judges cannot actually do anything: their entire power comes from their parent district court's approval.
          1. They certainly are judges. They are not life tenure judges, but they are judges.

          2. They do not serve at anybody's "whim".

          3. Magistrate decisions are ctied all the time.

          4. There are many instances in which they have binding authority in the matter before them.

          5. As the underlying article [blogspot.com] makes perfectly clear, this was not a binding authority, but awaits approval by the District Judge.

          6. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but in 34 years of working in the litigation field I cannot recall ever having seen a District Judge reject the Magistrate Judge's findings. Usually Magistrate's "recommendations" -- like this 15-page decision -- are extremely thorough.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            While I'm not saying you're lying, I'm shocked: in the last week alone, I've seen a half-dozen magistrate R&Rs rejected and outright reversed.

            Of course, magistrate rules are binding within their own courts, but you cannot apply a magistrate ruling to a normal district court; all you can do is refer to the district court having adopted the R&R. That's why a magistrate, on their own, is nothing: their power is fully dependent upon their district court agreeing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Pig Hogger (10379)

      It seems like 9/10 of rulings in America are based on the ideal of precedent; it's worked a certain way in the past, so we see no reason to go against the grain.

      This is the main problem with anglo-saxon "justice" systems. It's a fairly primitive law-system (similar to those used to stone-age cultures) since it is dictated by custom. It essentially means that whatever misguided decisions must be perpetuated ad vitam æternam, and whenever a new decision has been made (such like when new, never before

      • Re:Precedent! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @12:50PM (#20720029)
        Poppycock. Common law embodies a heritage of freedom. Code Napoleon embodies a heritage of state dictatorship. Instead of a body of of laws imposed by a central authority to govern every possible situation (and no doubt to the benefit of those with the money or position to influence the shape of those laws) Common Law provides a mechanism where laws arise from the lower levels of the legal system and percolate upwards through the system. And the idea the precedent is immutable is fatuous. Precedent is a living body.

        Louisiana has been using the Napoleonic system since it joined the US. I can tell you from having lived and worked in that state that their legal system is no better or worse than any other state- it is in fact the implementation and administrators that govern the effectiveness of the system. And in Louisiana they certainly have no special competence.

        Yes, common law is more chaotic. It is also a far older system which has a much longer track record of success.

      • by cfulmer (3166)
        Pfft. I don't know why you think, for example, that France is more civilized than the UK or Louisiana than Mississippi. I suppose you're entitled to your opinion, but you're not doing yourself any favors by being derogatory toward "Anglo-Saxons."

        In the US, most situations are also formally codified -- in those cases, the judge just applies the statute to the case at hand. The only question is what you do when you hit a new situation which isn't formally codified. I have a tough time believing that any
        • Pfft. I don't know why you think, for example, that France is more civilized than the UK or Louisiana than Mississippi. I suppose you're entitled to your opinion, but you're not doing yourself any favors by being derogatory toward "Anglo-Saxons." In the US, most situations are also formally codified -- in those cases, the judge just applies the statute to the case at hand. The only question is what you do when you hit a new situation which isn't formally codified. I have a tough time believing that any country has a civil code in which the solution for all possible disputes is set out in black and white. There have to be in-between areas where the rules do not precisely spell out the answer. And, then the question is: what happens to the second person who hits that gray area? Is he allowed to say "Look. I did exactly the same thing John did, and you said he didn't do anything wrong, so you shouldn't find that I did anything wrong either"?

          In France people are being prosecuted criminally for offending the record companies by engaging in peer to peer file sharing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        This is the main problem with anglo-saxon "justice" systems. It's a fairly primitive law-system (similar to those used to stone-age cultures) since it is dictated by custom. It essentially means that whatever misguided decisions must be perpetuated ad vitam æternam, and whenever a new decision has been made (such like when new, never before seen, technology, such as the Internet, is involved), the prevailing party is the one with the deepest pockets, who is able to afford the best legal team to shoehorn the case into various precedent cases, no matter how unrelated or convoluted, and make it stick to the court. Fortunately, other, more civilized countries use a civil code system where most situations are formally codified, which essentially prevents rich people from making their own custom-made laws and shove them down the throats of, We, the People, against our will.

        I am not in a position to discuss the merits of the common law system versus those of a code system, since I have never practiced law under a code system. But I can tell you that
        -your description of our common law system is way off base in many, many respects, and
        -in some code countries, like France, people are being prosecuted criminally for p2p file sharing, in order to enrich the coffers of the big record companies. 3 of the 4 big record companies are based in code countries, where they apparently h

  • ...to an RIAA free America...
  • by User 956 (568564) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @04:31AM (#20717635) Homepage
    when plaintiffs dismissed their claims in June 2007, they apparently had no more material evidence to support their claims than they did when they first contacted defendant in February 2005

    You'd think it would take them a lot less than two years to fabricate the proper evidence. Maybe their "research" team is running a backlog of cases and this one fell through the cracks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      They're not going to fabricate3 evidence. Something you have to realise is that the RIAA thinks they're the good guys here, defending their historical industry against the eeeevil pirates.
      • by User 956 (568564) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @05:01AM (#20717749) Homepage
        Something you have to realise is that the RIAA thinks they're the good guys here, defending their historical industry against the eeeevil pirates.

        They do think they're the "good guys", which is more of a motive than you might think [slashdot.org]. When you're the "good guy", your own misdeeds can be morally justified (at least in your own mind) because your overall mission is "good", not "evil".
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by poetmatt (793785)
          yes, but if as is the case with the RIAA, if a large number of people outside of your own "group" punch holes in both your logic and morals, then obviously something is wrong. Just because people can't look at themselves from a 3rd person perspective doesn't exclude them from seeking that from others. Thats why judges are impartial and what they are there for. If the RIAA has a legitimate reason behind what they're doing as opposed to false information, etc, court would be different. However, they're doin
        • by gmack (197796) <gmack&innerfire,net> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @08:45AM (#20718459) Homepage Journal
          I think this applies: Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences. -- C. S. Lewis
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I don't think it does. The RIAA is doing what it does for no reason other than money.
            • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @12:48PM (#20720011)
              Well, either way I'd say the robber baron appellation is a good fit. Give us your stuff, or we'll just bop you on the head and take it.

              Speaking of money, I had always thought the RIAA was funded by the various member corporations, and was to some degree subject to their will. With the RIAA extracting substantial sums from these settlements, are they functioning now as an independent profit-making enterprise? Are they operating this lawsuit mill at a loss? If not ... where does the money go, anyway?
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                Speaking of money, I had always thought the RIAA was funded by the various member corporations, and was to some degree subject to their will. With the RIAA extracting substantial sums from these settlements, are they functioning now as an independent profit-making enterprise? Are they operating this lawsuit mill at a loss? If not ... where does the money go, anyway?

                Being somewhat familiar with what is going on, and being fairly good in arithmetic, I'm pretty sure they're operating the litigation mill at a substantial loss. But I think their primary objective is to save their dying business model, which is a much bigger problem than the few million a year they're dropping on the litigation.

                I.e., they are not measuring it in terms of whether the revenues from the litigation exceed the expenses of the litigation. The primary objective of the litigations isn't to produ

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by ScrewMaster (602015)
                  That's interesting. I have attorneys in my family (and they maintain the same opinion on the RIAA's core motivation as you) but I have no feel for the costs involved. I had sort of tacitly assumed that they were profiting from the cases that settled immediately.

                  Of course, terrorism (which apparently doesn't always require the application of high explosive, just a certified letter or two) has little to do with specific targets: quite the opposite. The more you can encourage everyone to believe that they a
                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    I have no feel for the costs involved. I had sort of tacitly assumed that they were profiting from the cases that settled immediately

                    Again, based on nothing more than my general knowledge and arithmetic, I think the RIAA
                    -makes a profit on the settlements,
                    -loses money on the default judgment cases (which make up the large majority of the cases), and
                    -loses a ton of money on any contested cases.
                    I think the percentage of cases ending in default judgments and in settlements has diminished, and the percentage being contested has increased, thus moving them from breaking even to losing money.

                    • I think the percentage of cases ending in default judgments and in settlements has diminished, and the percentage being contested has increased, thus moving them from breaking even to losing money.

                      So their efforts are no longer self-sustaining. That's what I was getting at. If they're operating in the black they can keep this up forever, but if this has turned into into an ineffective money sink their masters may eventually call a halt.
                    • If they're operating in the black they can keep this up forever, but if this has turned into into an ineffective money sink their masters may eventually call a halt.
                      I'm thinking it's the judges who are starting to call a halt. I'm seeing judges
                      -throw out the RIAA's boilerplate complaint
                      -uphold very grave counterclaims
                      -balk at the ex parte motion practice, and
                      -assess attorneys fees.
          • C. S. Lewis
            The Greatest Christian Apologist in the history of the world. Sure there are a lot of Jimmy Swaggerts, but at the same time, I think that one CS Lewis just might make up for them. Maybe. If you haven't read the Screwtape Letters, you owe it to yourself to do so. Even if you are an Atheist, they explain what a Christian should aspire to be.
      • Of course they'd fabricate evidence. What do you think MediaDefender and the RIAA's "expert witnesses" have been doing all this time?
      • by seebs (15766)
        That's a non-sequitur. People often fabricate evidence because they think they're the good guys! When CaDan computers submitted forged evidence in my junk fax case against them, I have no doubt that they considered themselves innocent victims of some crazy vigilante or whatever. Nonetheless, the evidence was forged. (Note that this never quite came to trial, so the court never really looked at the evidence; it was just in their stack of produced documents.)
  • =)

    Seriously, while this is small potatoes change to RIAA, it's a major blow in terms of precedence.

    FINALLY, their tactics are coming back to bite them in the ass.

    And it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of racketeering bastards.
  • by Nymz (905908) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @04:52AM (#20717725) Journal
    Most everyone already knew that settling for a few thousand is worth it, versus the incalcuable time and money and headaches of fighting the RIAA extortion racket. So while I'm glad a single judge was able to figure it out eventually, will this case really have any significant impact upon future threats from the RIAA? Without some explicit legislation (a law) that protects citizens fair-use rights, paired with reasonable copyright protections, I just can't imagine any court procedings fixing our societal dilemma.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Copyright holders generally, and these plaintiffs specifically, should be deterred from
      prosecuting infringement claims as plaintiffs did in this case.

      The Magistrate gives the impression in his ruling that the attorney fees be granted [blogspot.com] that he thinks they should be stopped from such activity, starting with making them pay the defendant's lawyer fees and possibly extra penalties. Further, he states that the defendant is still eligible to participate in the class action suit and other claims against the RIAA e

    • But to settle is to give in; and, it is a tacit admission of guilt. (If you did it, then you should settle). While it's statistically unlikely, next time they come after you, they will have the settlement to point to. They can go "look, he admitted guilt once before in this settlement..." In addition, if you settle, you send the message "This Works!" While it's more expensive to litigate, it's the only way to send the message that going after consumers is a bad idea. That is short of convincing Congre
    • by rhizome (115711)
      So while I'm glad a single judge was able to figure it out eventually, will this case really have any significant impact upon future threats from the RIAA?

      It doesn't make sense to assert that settling will be less painful (to whom?) when you organize your entire argument around an unanswered question. Yes, running away from a fight is less painful than getting punched, but this isn't necessarily the only criteria involved.

      I just can't imagine any court procedings fixing our societal dilemma.

      Beyond the assum
      • I just can't imagine any court procedings fixing our societal dilemma.

        Beyond the assumption that the **AA problem can only be solved as a "societal dilemma," I'm guessing you aren't a lawyer.

        I'm guessing that not only is he not a lawyer, he's never read a history book, either. Because court proceedings have been crucial at every stage of American history, and have fixed many 'societal dilemmas' which neither the legislative bodies nor the executive branches in state and federal government were able to 'fix'. I have already labeled the author of the GP a "foe" and he continues to demonstrate that he richly deserves that appellation.

      • I just can't imagine any court procedings fixing our societal dilemma.

        Beyond the assumption that the **AA problem can only be solved as a "societal dilemma," I'm guessing you aren't a lawyer.

        Laws are passed by legislatures, but only interpreted and applied by judges. A judge cannot make new laws, and he cannot fix bad ones, he can only deal with the law as it IS, not as it SHOULD BE.

        I assert that we have too many overextensive and overreaching copyright protection laws, because companies have pressu

  • .. they are built upon historical cases. Every case they lose, they update the contract to make sure they do not end up in that position again. All this does is give more ammo to the RIAA / MPAA, they GAIN EXPERIENCE (so do we but they have people focusing on this 24/7).
    • If they learned something, they wouldn't push DRM so viciously.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Technician (215283)
        If they learned something, they wouldn't push DRM so viciously.

        Got that right. It's the number 2 reason I haven't bought any music online. Value is number 1. Too much money for too little quality, content and usability. DRM/Copy protected CD tracks are incompatible with my car stereo, living room DVD player, portable DVD/MP3 player and Winamp, PowerPoint, Lights-O-Rama, DigitalPhotoFrame,.... I buy DVD's instead. CSS is broken enough DVD's can be put on both the kids Zen and iPod without buying the me
  • by keraneuology (760918) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @09:11AM (#20718553) Journal
    Methinks they should base the attorney's fees awarded on what the plaintiffs spent on attorney and court costs. I'm sure the defendant would have been happy to spend more (yes, she won, but she obviously couldn't have known that at the onset), and the plaintiffs have clearly indicated what they believe the case was worth to try and work through the courts...

    (Even better would be to force the RIAA to pay the defendant what they were attempting to collect in the first place - do that only once or twice and all of these cases go away.)

  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @02:09PM (#20720639)
    That's the attitude the RIAA and MPAA have towards their customers-and they wonder why their customers are voting with their feet in droves! Yes, downloading has a small effect on their sales, but it's their complete lack of customer service that's their biggest problem! Look, if I go to a grocery store and time after time either can't find what I want or the it's packaged so I have to buy five pounds of hamburger or rice when I only want one pound of it, and/or am treated rudely by their staff, I'm simply going to say; "Hasta la Vista, baby!" and go to another store. Yet, that's EXACTLY the way the music and movie industries treat me. Big problem for them is there are OTHER things I can spend my money on that I get enjoyment from. Look at iTunes-they provide music in a user friendly way and provide a no hassle way for me to buy EXACTLY what I want-WHEN I want it! No wonder why they've sold over a billion songs in such a short time. If everyone was pirating content, they'd have NO business! The thing I can't understand is Congress' hard on to pass laws friendly to the music and movie industries. You don't see them passing laws requiring me to shop at Safeway, for example. Are they THAT corrupted?
    • Look at iTunes-they provide music in a user friendly way and provide a no hassle way for me to buy EXACTLY what I want-WHEN I want it! No wonder why they've sold over a billion songs in such a short time. If everyone was pirating content, they'd have NO business!

      I'd mod the parent Insightful +1 for that point alone.

  • by scottsk (781208) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @03:58PM (#20721479) Homepage
    Gotta love the irony ... the RIAA members spent a couple of decades pumping out filthy rap trash as mainstream "entertainment" which encouraged people to break the law in more ways than I ever thought possible. Now, when they need it the most, they can't get anyone to obey the law! Instant karma got 'em!
    • Yes, but that was all about minor crimes such as rape, shooting police officers and selling heroin, mere misdemeanors in comparison to what's happening on P2P nowadays. I mean, they most certainly weren't intending to encourage the theft of something as vital to our society and our economy as pop music ... my God, that would be worse than murder!
      • Reminds me of this scene:

        Cheviot: "It seems I have little choice but to back you against the police... provided, of course, the charges against Carter are completely unfounded. What exactly are they?"
        Murray: "Credit fraud."
        Cheviot: "Credit fraud... my god, that's worse than murder!"

        Max Headroom: Security Systems [maxheadroom.com]

        • Funny ... as I was writing my original comment that's the scene I was thinking of. That was a very prophetic show, for its time.

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