Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government Media Music News Your Rights Online

RIAA Must Divulge Expenses-Per-Download 305

Posted by kdawson
from the treble-damages-are-for-wimps dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The Court has ordered UMG Recordings, Warner Bros. Records, Interscope Records, Motown, and SONY BMG to disclose their expenses-per-download to the defendant's lawyers, in UMG v. Lindor, a case pending in Brooklyn. The Court held that the expense figures are relevant to the issue of whether the RIAA's attempt to recover damages of $750 or more per 99-cent song file, is an unconstitutional violation of due process."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

RIAA Must Divulge Expenses-Per-Download

Comments Filter:
  • by nilbog (732352) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:35AM (#21488773) Homepage Journal
    Oh don't worry, they'll come up with a way to justify the cost.

    "See, we have a team working full time copying the bits by hand."
    • by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:41AM (#21488807) Homepage Journal
      IANAL, but I think the problem is that they would have to show that they were doing that before this request to itemize the costs was made. Otherwise they could make up anything they wanted.

      "Yes your honor, we encode the bits into a 1 oz. gold coins and mail them to our other office where they are melted down and made into a plaque for this specific case"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)
        Otherwise they could make up anything they wanted.

        But that's what they did. Duh.
      • by DuncanE (35734) *
        I'm surprised no body else has mentioned this, but if the person put songs on a file sharing network the RIAA could claim that on average the files were downloaded 750 times so its 750 x $1.

        Worse still if this person ripped the CD and shared that on the internet, if the RIAA really thought about it, they could claim that ANYONE who downloaded the song illegally ultimately sourced it from this individual. This is even more true if they did it before the CD was even released (say by having a preview copy).
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Pc_Madness (984705)
          But won't they have to prove that the song was downloaded 750 times? :p
          • by RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:02AM (#21490917) Homepage Journal
            (Yikes, it's scary to find myself offering an argument for the RIAA's side of something. I'll take a long shower after posting this, but anyway...)

            IANAL, but I can't think the courts would refuse to admit a methodologically sound series of independent experiments into evidence, whereby the experimenter seeds a number of files (of varying popularity) with unique, recognizable bitprints, then measures and documents their distribution. The RIAA probably holds the position that a filesharer is responsible not only for the direct downloads he generates, but for subsequent distribution of the file as well. 10 * 10 * 10 gets you over 750 pretty fast.

            Admitting the study into evidence might make them have to adjust the damage amounts to consider each song's popularity, but it could conceivably justify an average of 750 copies in circulation * $0.99, over time.
      • Your on-topic sig (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @10:00AM (#21491455) Journal
        DRM=Digital Restrictions Management

        I think of it as "dumb record mangling." My copy of the CD of Led Zeppelin's first album (that I bought at Recycled Records) has two songs that won't play, despite the fact that there are no visible scratches or other defects.

        So I ripped all the songs to .wav and replaced the two that wouldn't play with songs sampled from my cassette copy [kuro5hin.org]. As I have a very good used cassette deck I paid $50 for (that originally sold for $600), there is little audible difference between the digitally mangled CD and the cassette's sound, whether played on my home JBL three ways (12 inch woofers) or the six speaker car stereo.

        In fact, the DRM on that CD and listening to my workaround to its designed defects is what convinced me to stop replacing my tapes and LPs with CDs, and to write the above linked article.

        I'd already got a CD copy of their Presence album and it lacked presence. So I tried sampling the LP and guess what? My burned CD of the LP sounds better than the factory CD, which obviously suffers from bad remastering.

        The record companies are obviously run by idiots who think their customers are all fools. Sadly, the idiots may be right.

        -mcgrew
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by keithjr (1091829)
        In the case of Jammie Thomas [wikipedia.org], this was the defense's biggest oversight. They did not fight hard enough to get the cost-per-song down to a reasonable, sane level. Even though she didn't get charged with the full possible amount, the RIAA was still awarded $9,250 per song. At that point, the number was as shocking as it was immutable.
    • Of course they will , they will just add in lawyers costs and then jack it up past $750
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It would probably please the ISPs too, if the RIAA could get a 'per copy uploaded' or 'per fileshared minute' type of outcome, as that would link the penalty to the transmitted datavolume.
    • Remember Minority Report? The wooden balls?

      Those held a single name. Imagine the size of the balls you'd need to record an entire song.

      Movie makers; they have the biggest balls in the industry.
    • by jamstar7 (694492) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @04:04AM (#21489581)
      Like the phone company [ph33r.org] did back in the day when they went after some kids for allegedly hacking a 911 system when actually, they downloaded a 'confidential computer text file' reputedly worth over $80k when they were selling copies of it for about 30 bucks. IIRC, they wanted to charge the kids for the cost of the computer system used to create the document, the time logged by the person that typed the document up, plus the salary of said typist's supervisor for the time the typist reputedly spent creating the document.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Daengbo (523424)
        Not to be a grammar nazi, but you need to watch your antecedents. I actually understood that the kids were selling the file, not the telecom, until long after I finished reading your comment. Just to make it clear: The telecom was trying to charge the kids $80K for a file the telecomwas itself selling for $30. Is that right?
  • by Wylfing (144940) <brian AT wylfing DOT net> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:41AM (#21488817) Homepage Journal

    Wouldn't it be ironic if the lawsuits brought by the RIAA in an attempt to preserve/enhance strong copyright ended up severely diminishing U.S. copyright law instead?

    • by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:51AM (#21488865)
      It's already happening. My neighbors are a couple lawyers. Albeit they are criminal and Divorce , they are saying that most people in their firm are getting crap from judges for bringing stupid patent cases to court.

      Thankfully their firm is downtown boston so tons of stupid companies go to them daily. These patent trolls are losing money quickly and it's great to see the RIAA is running into the same issue.

      They need to update thier business model or face becoming extinct.
      • by John_The_Savage (990442) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:21AM (#21489039)
        While judges complain it will still not stop the problem. Judges complain all the time. They complain about silly discovery disputes that they think should not be in their courtroom. But there are still discovery disputes everyday. The bar does have a way of self regulating and keeping the most egregious ones out of court. But the lawyer is still driven by the client. And the client (the business) is driven by simple capitalism. $50 dollars in legal fees for a chance to win millions in licensing. Hell even the threat of a lawsuit might just get them to settle. In sum, judges can complain all they want but ultimately the legislature needs to step up and fix this mess.
      • by Kjella (173770)

        Thankfully their firm is downtown boston so tons of stupid companies go to them daily. These patent trolls are losing money quickly and it's great to see the RIAA is running into the same issue.
        Yes, they're only getting six figure damage awards that may or may not get lowered, surely they're going bankrupt any day now... A little early to declare victory don't you think?
    • Nothing "ironic" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:00AM (#21488933) Homepage

      Wouldn't it be ironic if the lawsuits brought by the RIAA in an attempt to preserve/enhance strong copyright ended up severely diminishing U.S. copyright law instead?

      They were in a lose-lose situation before they started. Ignore the problem, and the copyright law is useless. Try to enforce your rights, and the legal protections degrade, as you observed.

      Fighting the mob is very difficult — but they are trying. At least, a watered-down law may still be a law they may be able to enforce...

      • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:17AM (#21489339)

        They were in a lose-lose situation before they started. Ignore the problem, and the copyright law is useless. Try to enforce your rights, and the legal protections degrade, as you observed.

        No, really it wasn't. The biggest problem they had was that they weren't selling a product wanted to buy, and that they weren't putting most of the money into making a compelling product. Most people are decent enough, but most people aren't sufficiently stupid to pay for an item that they don't value.

        I bought many CDs in the couple of years up until the lawsuits began, I bought a few since, but at this point I won't buy any, and I discourage people from giving me any albums. I'll still buy indie albums, or at least the ones that come from non RIAA affiliated labels, when I can be reasonably sure they aren't paying dues.

        They wouldn't be this unpopular if they were just enforcing their legal rights, they're this unpopular because what they are engaging in better resembles extortion than seeking legal relief. Their lack of interest in following typical courtroom procedures, and the very fact that their evidence is frequently unverifiable all but ensures that they will be both loathed and despised for years to come.

        They also wouldn't be this unpopular if they were prosecuting their own relatives for similar acts of infringement. I think that was one of the more egregious points, when that child of an executive was caught red handed. Rather than being forced to settle or being drug into court, he was given a stern lecture from his father.

        Honestly, how can anybody observe any of that, and still feel like it was a lose-lose. They didn't have to destroy their own image to make the pirates pay. The amount of damage they have themselves willfully inflicted on themselves has been huge. What with the random lawsuits, DRM and the rootkit ready audio CDs.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by radarjd (931774)

          No, really it wasn't. The biggest problem they had was that they weren't selling a product wanted to buy, and that they weren't putting most of the money into making a compelling product. Most people are decent enough, but most people aren't sufficiently stupid to pay for an item that they don't value.

          And yet, people go right on buying CDs and downloading this product which isn't wanted, according to you. They do this despite the (however remote) possibility of legal action against them. If people honestly didn't want the music the (companies which make up the) RIAA would be out of business already. They would have no income and no means to continue their day-to-day operations, let alone the lawsuits.

          You can criticize their methods, but you can't honestly say they don't produce a product that at le

      • Re:Nothing "ironic" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:20AM (#21489357)
        Except it wasn't lose-lose. CD sales were up during Napster. Studies show those who pirate are more likely to buy cds. File sharing is just free advertising. This abuse of their customers has lost them business (I have not bought a cd in 4 or 5 years due to these lawsuits). The correct strategy was for them to ignore personal copying and go after commercial piracy, but they were too big a control freak to do that.
      • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:58AM (#21489547)

        They were in a lose-lose situation before they started. Ignore the problem, and the copyright law is useless. Try to enforce your rights, and the legal protections degrade, as you observed.
        Yes they were in a lose-lose situation, but they themselves created that situation. What we're seeing is a disparity between the market domain (i.e. reality) and the legal domain shaking out. The market recognizes that software (including patents, music, pictures, video) has essentially zero cost of duplication and (thanks to the Internet) zero cost of distribution. It wants to drive the cost of such services towards zero. The *AA saw that, panicked, and got a bunch of laws passed which made it illegal to do what the market wanted to do; that made common sense illegal (e.g. I paid for that DRM's music, why can't I have a copy of it both on my computer and my MP3 player?). They took laws created ostensibly to crack down on commercial copyright infringers, and started (ab)using them as a sledgehammer against petty personal infringement.

        What we're seeing now is reality reasserting itself over these nonsensical laws. If the RIAA had recognized what was happening and concentrated on developing a workable business model, they wouldn't have put themselves into a lose-lose situation. But the industry as it pre-existed were so abusive of performers' rights that I'm not sure that was even possible. The Internet has made the value of the distributor nearly worthless -- anybody can distribute now, just slap your MP3s onto a web server. Since any workable business model has to accurately reflect the value the distributor adds to the music production process, their revenue would've gone from >95% of the pie to less than 5%. The MPAA is in much better shape because movie production involves a lot more capital (they add much more value to the process), and their final product is more realistically priced ($20-$30 for a DVD or BR/HD-DVD feels about right to me for the value I'm getting, so I don't have much problem justifying to myself paying for it).

      • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @04:00AM (#21489557) Homepage
        They're in the position of monks making a living from hand-writing bibles, a year -after- the printing-press has been invented. Sure, neither ignoring the problem, nor trying to sue every user of a printing-press is likely to solve the problem.

        There is however potential -- if they want to adapt. And there's signs they're -slowly- getting it. All major record-companies in Norway experimented with various DRMy non-cds, and had massive problems. They've stopped. All of them. Today, unlike 2 years ago, when you buy a CD you actually get a CD.

        Online music is also changing to plain unencumbered formats, away from DRMy ones. The DRM -doesn't- stop piracy, and it prevents a lot of otherwise honest customers from shopping. Me for example, I'm happy paying say 2/3rds of the price of a physical-cd for a downloaded-cd (I reckon it's fair the reduced distribution-costs should benefit me to some degree too), but I absolutely refuse to pay even a -single- cent for DRM-encumbered music.

        So, in short. The old-fashioned music-industry is doomed. They've got a choice though: do they want to figth the future tooth and nail until it arrives anyway and they're extinct. Or do they want to evolve and adapt and be relevant -- allthough in a different form than today -- also in the future.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mpe (36238)
          Online music is also changing to plain unencumbered formats, away from DRMy ones. The DRM -doesn't- stop piracy, and it prevents a lot of otherwise honest customers from shopping.

          If anything it encourages piracy. Since the pirate copies don't have DRM and are thus more valuable to the customer. It's also the case that the "pirates" don't tend to want to restrict distribution by grography, thus it can quite often be the case that the choice is between "pirate" copy and no copy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jotok (728554)
        Well, the problem is that the law is not a good fit for what people actually want to do. This has been a problem for a long time, at least since the labels started recording blue music: there were songs that essentially came "out of the fields," that is, they were public domain because everyone knew them and nobody knew who wrote them (and in fact they evolved through collaboration among artists). But then one person records it, and the label tries to enforce copyright.

        Basically they want to be the sole p
    • by Erris (531066) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @04:01AM (#21489565) Homepage Journal

      They are not trying to preserve copyright, they are trying to make it into something unAmerican that violates the US Constitution. In other words, their actions have destroyed copyright regardless of success or failure. They have used several techniques to make their exclusive franchise eternal, have redefined the meaning of the franchise from protection against commercial publication to nonsensical "making available" and "unauthorized copy," and worst of all have made a civil mater into a criminal one with unusual punishment. To do this they have trampled free speech, due process, the fourth amendment and have technically sabotaged legitimate competitors. That's not copyright, it's information and market control straight out of the former Soviet Union.

      It will be good to get back real copyright law and put it in balance with the way information really flows. The goals of copyright law is encouragement of the public domain and to advance the state of the art. People should not lose their house for sharing a few songs, books, movies and other material with their friends. Businesses that can't compete in freedom don't deserve to exist.

  • $750 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:46AM (#21488833) Homepage Journal

    I've always been amazed by the gall they have quoting that number. What other type of copyright infringement can claim 757.6 times the value of the product as damages? When the SPA goes after companies using pirated commercial software they don't look at an old copy of Windows 98 and try claiming $8000 as damages, do they?

    • Re:$750 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:01AM (#21488941)
      Yes, they do. They claim whatever they can get away with. And considering if you have a site license with MS, you agree in part of the license terms to be searched AT your cost.

      And if you legally fight them, they have Congress on their side: you pay THEIR lawyer bills.
    • Re:$750 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shark72 (702619) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:10AM (#21488989)

      "I've always been amazed by the gall they have quoting that number."

      That's the minimum statutory amount. Per S504:

      (1) Except as provided by clause (2) of this subsection, the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just.

      Note that the record labels are asking for the minimum allowed. Could be much worse!

      "What other type of copyright infringement can claim 757.6 times the value of the product as damages?"

      Any other type of infringement where the retail value of the product is around a buck -- that is, not much. The $750 is arbitrary; ie. it'd be the statutory minimum amount if you were nailed for sharing copies of, say, PhotoShop... in which case the ratio would be much lower than 750:1.

      The $750 minimum is out-of-date; a remnant of the days before it was so easy to share so much music. It was written in a time when it took a lot of work to distribute 1,000 unique pirated songs.

      Ask 100 people and you'll get 100 answers, but I think that a more fitting statutory minimum should be in the neighborhood of $50 per work. Yes, I know, information wants to be fweeeeeeeeeeeeee, but for as long as copyright law is still around, the courts should be able to issue judgements that are an effective deterrent. If I were nailed for sharing 100 songs and the RIAA could only collect a statutory minimum of $5K from me rather than $75K (as under current law), I'd still get the point that perhaps I shouldn't have helped make other people's information so free after all.

      • Re:$750 (Score:5, Funny)

        by wickedskaman (1105337) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:18AM (#21489345) Journal
        This is one of the most honest and unbiased assessments of the whole copyright issue I have ever seen on Slashdot. shark72, you have obviously reached a higher echelon that is beyond the reach of this site's populace. Go! Leave us to our one-sided demise and forge new hopeful alliances to spread your even-handed message!

      • I don't think the laws have adapated to the fact that people are happy to give away copyrighted material for absolutley nothing.
        There are two types of groups breaking copyright now.

        The actual pirates, copying material and selling it for their own commercial gain, to the detriment of the owner of the IP, and then you have the kids, mothers, grandmothers, students and anyone else dabbling in copyright infringment for personal use.

        As with many drug laws in many countries, they have developed laws to severley p
      • by Kjella (173770)

        The $750 minimum is out-of-date; a remnant of the days before it was so easy to share so much music. It was written in a time when it took a lot of work to distribute 1,000 unique pirated songs.

        Actually, it was written in a time when there was significant economics of scale. Imagine this:
        100 people each make 100 copies of 1 work, swapping physical copies (no further copyright violation) so they have one copy each = 10000 illegal copies, 100*750$ liability.
        100 people each make 1 copy of 100 works using a P2P network = 10000 illegal copies, 100*100*750$ liability.

        Basicly the damages increase immensly when you go from "few works*many copies" to "many works*few copies".

    • It was interesting indeed to see the article on the BSA yesterday, where, though they didn't post their sources, several posters said the BSA takes 3x retail price + $3500 for legal costs for infringements.
  • obvious (Score:3, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:50AM (#21488859) Homepage
    The Court has ordered UMG Recordings, Warner Bros. Records, Interscope Records, Motown, and SONY BMG to disclose their expenses-per-download

    downl0wned!
  • Am I the only one? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGoodSteven (1178459) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:51AM (#21488861)
    Am I the only one that gets some sort of happiness from the RIAA's obvious abuse of copyright laws? The more and more they are able to stretch them, the more and more obvious it becomes that the whole deal needs an overhaul. At one point lawmakers are gonna put their foot down and make sure this comes to an end, and that it can never happen again, right?...........right?
    • Why would any law maker help people ? It's not their job any more. They are bought and sold by these people daily.

      Short of the public getting up and saying enough is enough, I don't think we will see any lawmaker get up and notice this. If they do they will probably be given a hefty donation to their "re-election" campaign and the spouse of the lawmaker hired for a job pouring milk in the head quarters for $250 k a month.
    • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:04AM (#21488955)
      At one point lawmakers are gonna put their foot down and make sure this comes to an end, and that it can never happen again, right?...........right?

      Have you ever paid attention to all of those 10,000 page "free trade" treaties we keep signing? Almost every treaty has a provision regarding copyright. Generally each treaty requires stronger and stronger copyright provisions. If congress actually did come to their senses and balance copyright law, we would be in violation of tons of treaties and subject to massive economic sanctions.

      Balanced copyrights will require a worldwide effort and support from the heads of state of dozens of countries...just to get started.

      • by pokerdad (1124121)

        Have you ever paid attention to all of those 10,000 page "free trade" treaties we keep signing? Almost every treaty has a provision regarding copyright. Generally each treaty requires stronger and stronger copyright provisions

        I am just guessing based on things I have read elsewhere, but I suspect that those provisions are usually included at the insistence of the U.S. and if the U.S. asked to have them dropped, many of the treaty partners would do so in a second.

        • by HuguesT (84078)
          The US is not going to drop them. The executive makes up the treaty. They know that the US mostly export IP, in the form of cultural items mostly (films, music, some software). The US wants severe and enforced IP laws everywhere in the world, because this is in its best commercial interest. The US executive does not care in the least for civil liberties of non-voters.

          Here the judiciary arm of US gov. is asking itself whether this rigmarole makes sense, but this debate will not affect treaties in the least.
    • by Rimbo (139781)
      Sometimes, if you can scare enough people with the threat of the end of all they hold dear, people will let you rob them blind.
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:52AM (#21488871) Homepage Journal
    You don't have to pay the iTunes Music Store to download music legally. Many musicians offer free downloads of their music as a way to promote themselves. I'm one such artist [geometricvisions.com]. You could really help me out if you shared my music over the Internet.

    You can find many other such artists, and free, legal music hosting sites in my article Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads [goingware.com].

  • As the saying goes "What's good for the goose is good for the gander". If the RIAA can press for wide ranging discovery that is intrusive for the defendants, they have to be able to do the same to plantiffs when they're after information that is relevant to their defense.

    I would hope that a judge wouldn't accept costs more of than 70c per song since that's about how much they get from iTunes (the cost per download shouldn't include Apples cut of the 99c since of course that's Apples income not the Record C

  • This is really slow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slashqwerty (1099091) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:56AM (#21488909)
    Is it just me or is there a ridiculous number of exhibits and motions in this Lindor case? I count 239 links on Ray's blog just for this one case. I noticed this link [ilrweb.com] from December 14, 2006--a year ago--in which the plaintiffs appear to be stalling on this very issue. The letter makes reference to a hearing from August of 2006. Has this one issue really been going on that long?
    • Yes. Click the third link in the story summary to see an article on Slashdot about the beginning of this motion, over a year ago.
    • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:53AM (#21489213) Homepage Journal

      Is it just me or is there a ridiculous number of exhibits and motions in this Lindor case? I count 239 links on Ray's blog just for this one case. I noticed this link from December 14, 2006--a year ago--in which the plaintiffs appear to be stalling on this very issue. The letter makes reference to a hearing from August of 2006. Has this one issue really been going on that long?
      1. No it's not just you; it is ridiculous. Ms. Lindor has never even used a computer.

      2. It took us 6 months to get the revenue information. Now it's been 4 1/2 months so far to try and get the expense information.
      • Now it's been 4 1/2 months so far to try and get the expense information.

        I read the request. It is comprehensive and complete. Please post the response you get. I am interested in the other information you requested such as the setting of the clocks, (you should have asked for time zone for all and if DST was in effect) as well as all the information on how the data was collected, even to the naming of the text file. Great job. I hope they provide the information. I can't wait to add the Media Sentry
  • Well.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:57AM (#21488911)
    According to the copyright office [copyright.gov], damages go from 750$ to 30,000$. Unknown infringement is no less than 200$. Known, willful infringement is no greater than 150,000$. These all are statutory damages.

    I guess the next question is to actually ask if these statutory damages are constitutional or not, which is being asked now. Really, what else is there?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lehk228 (705449)
      I suspect the court will rule the extreme statutory damages amount to a fine rather than compensation for a tort and thus can only be imposed after a criminal trial.
    • Just because there's a statue that says X, doesn't mean said statue is legal. It appears that they are claiming it's a 5th and 14th amendment violation, specifically the due process parts. My guess is the argument is based along the lines of the fact that the fines are excessive in relation to the damage. While it is not uncommon for fines to exceed damages, there is generally a somewhat reasonable limit to it. 1000 times, which is what it being claimed (the claim the songs are worth basically $0.70 to the
  • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:01AM (#21488935) Homepage
    Just out of curiosity, has anyone on Slashdot been on the receiving end of an RIAA suit, or possibly a lawyer dealing with a client who has been? Or not even directly involved, but just know someone who's been through this ordeal?

    Every time a story like this comes up I read as many comments as I can and think, "Well fuck, if it's this obvious to everyone here that what's happening is out of line and in some cases illegal, why can't that message be communicated more broadly?"

    I have an extensive list of information I've been saving from Slashdot just on the off chance I ever get an RIAA letter in the mail (I d/l maybe an album per month, 90% of the time I buy it after listening). If I find myself facing one of these suits, I would immediately turn over to my lawyer everything I've compiled to be sure they're aware of what should be argued and what RIAA claims are total BS.

    Is there an existing repository for information like this, or is it time people like us Slashdotters created one?
    • Just hope you hire a good lawyer.

      About these lawsuits: Their settlements do NOT waive their right to still sue you. They'll just claim it was for those 5 songs.. they are worth750$ per song, dontchaknow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Just out of curiosity, has anyone on Slashdot been on the receiving end of an RIAA suit, or possibly a lawyer dealing with a client who has been? Or not even directly involved, but just know someone who's been through this ordeal?
      ...
      Is there an existing repository for information like this, or is it time people like us Slashdotters created one?


      The story submitter is a Slashdotter/lawyer [slashdot.org] who has a site dedicated to this sort of stuff [blogspot.com]. Of course, for legal advice that's not technically advice, I pay att
    • by Adam8g (1181859) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:15AM (#21489015)
      Yes - My son.

      He is a second year student at USC (University of Southern California)

      The attorney letter is from Holm Roberts & Owen LLP from their Denver office.

      The school passed on the letter and when I called the school's Acting Litigation Manager - was told that the school would pass on student info if a lawsuit is filed and the school receives a subpoena.

      To say I am disappointed at the school's passive position is an understatement. California has very strong laws requiring schools to protect the privacy of students - and if there should be legal action would be compelled to act in protecting student privacy.

      Since the school has very strong ties with the recording / film industry, and the LA basin is full of attorneys and judges that are graduates, the lawyer I consulted suggested settling.

      hummmm

  • by speedlaw (878924) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:07AM (#21488965) Homepage
    While the Brooklyn bench has its issues, the RIAA, etc have no "home court advantage" in NYC, nor do they impress the Court system on any level. Unlike a smaller burg this will cut no ice in NYC. RIAA, welcome to an unimpressed, hot Bench. Bout time.
  • 750 (Score:5, Funny)

    by NetNed (955141) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:30AM (#21489093)
    RIAA:"It's 70 cents for the song and $749.30 in cost of PR for restoring faith of our customers/artists/record labels"

    Judge:Are you sure?

    RIAA: "Ok, it's really 70 cents for the song, $749 for lawyers and $.30 in PR"

    Judge: Come on now?

    RIAA: "Alright, it's $.03 for the song, $200 for lawyers and $549.97 for your reelection campaign and all the free downloads of "The Gap Band" you can handle? How's that sound judge? Judge? Judge? Is this thing on?"
    • RIAA: "Alright, it's $.03 for the song, $200 for lawyers and $549.97 for your reelection campaign and all the free downloads of "The Gap Band" you can handle? How's that sound judge? Judge? Judge? Is this thing on?"
      Judge: Um... you do know that federal judges are appointed, not elected, right?

      RIAA: Nonsense! Everybody has a price. Ours is just spectacularly high.
  • by bagsc (254194) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:31AM (#21489107) Journal
    Quoth the Wikipedia "Punitive Damages:"
    "statistical studies by law professors and the Department of Justice have found that punitive damages are only awarded in two percent of civil cases which go to trial, and that the median punitive damage award is between $38,000 and $50,000.[7]

    In response to judges and juries which award high punitive damages verdicts, the Supreme Court of the United States has made several decisions which limit awards of punitive damages through the due process of law clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In a number of cases, the Court has indicated that a 4:1 ratio between punitive and compensatory damages is broad enough to lead to a finding of constitutional impropriety, and that any ratio of 10:1 or higher is almost certainly unconstitutional."

    If the song costs $1, and punitive damages of $749 are assessed, it's almost certainly unconstitutional. So why should it be legal statutorily?
    • Does it really matter though? Let me explain...

      A lawyer charges 400$ an hour. You need 15 hours billable time to fight 12 "songs" or settle and have possibility of suit later.

      Or lets fight it out.. You win a unconstitutional punitive damage challenge.

      They sue you for 12 more songs.

      Sounds like a winner...

      Just like the S.L.A.P.P.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Spy Hunter (317220)
      The wiggle room there is that statutory damages are used because calculating the actual damages is hard. The song costs $1, but the defendant probably uploaded it multiple times (and with the expectation that those copies would be further distributed). Therefore the damages are a *multiple* of $1. The RIAA would probably argue that the multiple could easily be 75 or more, making the damages fall under the 10:1 threshold you quote.

      But I think a little critical thinking could topple that argument. It's ea
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:20AM (#21489359)
    I asked my crystal ball (my magic 8 ball is in the laundry, sorry), and here's what we got.

    RIAA lawyer: "You asked for the reason of asking for 750 dollars per song shared, and here's the result:

    70 cents per song earned.
    An average of 1100 downloaders per song and per source.
    That would net about 770, we rounded down in favor of the defendent."

    Judge: "I see. And where do you get those numbers? The 1100 downloaders per song and source?"
    RIAA lawyer: "Statistics" (slams five pounds of paper onto the judge's desk."
    Judge: "I see. But wouldn't after some time a saturation set in? With everyone feeding 1100 downloaders, and each of them again feeding 1100..."
    RIAA lawyer (pauses): "Indeed. Well, then let me also file against the defendent for running a pyramid scheme."
    • by tygt (792974)
      Except, of course, that the lawyer is only capable of filing a civil suit, and so would have to ask a DA to file the ponzi charges (criminal)...
  • It would kind of make sense for them to to try get larger sums of money if they knew how many had downloaded the music. Then it's reasonable to think they could demand quite a bit more than 99 cents per song at least. But it's just that I rarely hear them coming forward with such numbers, and I'm not sure if they even know them, or if they just eavesdrop on the file sharer.
  • by kaltkalt (620110) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @04:13AM (#21489623)
    The Supreme Court held in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co v. Campbell et al. 538 U.S. 408 (2003) [justia.com] that a punitive damage award that is more than 10 times higher than the actual damages is presumably a violation of due process. Thus, it logically follows that statutory damages ($750) that are more than 1,100 times higher than actual damages are an even greater violation of due process for two reasons: First, the ratio is significantly higher, and second, the goal of statutory damages is compensatory rather than punative, so there is less of a reason to make the damages a high number; it should bear a relation to the actual damages. The sole purpose of statutory damages in copyright law is due to the fact that actual damages are often hard if not impossible to prove. But if actual harm can be quantified in any reasonable manner, then a statutory damage award must still bear a reasonable ratio to that amount or else it would violate due process. More than 10 to 1 is improper for punative damages, I'd say more than 2-3 to 1 is improper for statutory damages (since the purpose is not to punish, but merely to compensate the copyright holder). The copyright holder can seek punative damages at trial and if they can prove their case and entitlement thereto, they can get punative damages up to 10 times higher than actual damages. But for congress to mandate a statutory damage amount over 1,100 times higher than the actual harm/loss (per infringement!) simply must be an unconstitutional violation of due process to be consistent with existing Supreme Court precedent. This is particularly true if one argues that a portion of statutory damages include punative damages.
  • by gethoht (757871)
    I've been thinking about different arguments in regards to fair use(specifically: the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole) and the technical nature of how bittorrent works.

    Torrents are made up of a bunch of little pieces. Could someone even prove that you actually had a substantial amount of a specific file if you were in a swarm of seeders? Could you claim fair use given the fact that you might only have a piece of a file in question? Just a th
    • by Tim C (15259)
      IANAL and all that, but I'm pretty damn sure that fair use doesn't cover providing even the smallest part of a copyrighted work for the specific purpose of distributing the work without permission. You're not using the snippet for the purposes of criticism or satire, etc, you're using it specifically so that someone else can get a copy of the entire work.

      The judiciary may not understand all the deep technological points involved, but you can bet that they have a huge experience of people trying to worm thei
  • Cost of lost sale - 75 cents
    Cost of lost sales from people you share the song to - $749.25

    1+1=3
    • So much info in so little a post.
      Seriously yours is the most concise yet most informative post in this thread.
      Pity i used my mod points yesterday...

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose

Working...