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Is RIAA's MediaSentry Illegal in Your State? 200

Posted by Zonk
from the only-you-can-prevent-mediasentry dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Is Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG 'investigator' MediaSentry operating illegally in your state?. The Massachusetts State police has already banned the company, and it's been accused of operating without a license in Oregon, Florida, Texas, and New York. Similar charges have now been leveled the organization in Michigan. Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth, in response to a complaint, has confirmed that MediaSentry is not licensed in Michigan, and referred the complainant to the local prosecutor."
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Is RIAA's MediaSentry Illegal in Your State?

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  • To clarify (Score:5, Informative)

    by downix (84795) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:48AM (#22717468) Homepage
    Just in case someone does not know who Media Sentry is, here is a bit from their Wikipedia article (found here [wikipedia.org])

    MediaSentry is an American company that provides services to the music recording, motion picture, television, and software industries for locating and identifying IP addresses that are engaged in the use of online networks to share material in a manner said organizations claim is in violation of copyright.
  • hhmmmm. (Score:4, Informative)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:52AM (#22717544)
    whereas I derive a lot of pleasure about hearing the **AA and their cronies getting hosed I'm a little confused here.

    how is jurisdiction defined in 'net terms? physical address of the "investigator"? physical address of the "guilty" party? location of all the 'net infrastructure? where the summons where served? seems like this is far from evident to me.

    can they simply serve a warrant from a location where they are licensed?

  • Not banned in MA (Score:4, Informative)

    by diewlasing (1126425) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:53AM (#22717570)
    They aren't banned in MA, the state police sent the ma cease and desist letter, but I know, here in Boston, kids are still getting sued and I believe that they filed a complaint in court indicating the the state police told them to stop. But as far as I know the RIAA told them to fuck off, because I believe MediaSentry is still up to their old tricks here.
  • Re:Freedom (Score:5, Informative)

    by InsaneProcessor (869563) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:55AM (#22717616)
    Because public investigation affects the public (hence the name). Just as a professional driver (IE: trucks, buses) must have a state issued license to practice their craft for hire, so must a public investigator who is hired. You don't need a license for forensics but you do for investigation because you work in the public and effect the public.
  • by HannethCom (585323) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @12:02PM (#22717752)
    RIAA employing companies working illegally. Suing the wrong person. Screwing the artists they are supposed to protect. Screwing the consumers. So what else it new?

    In Canada we have the CRIA (Same basic entity) that admitted to collecting more media tax than they were supposed to from customers, and what did they do with this extra money they shouldn't have had? Pocketed it themselves of course. As I understand it, to get money from the CRIA you have to apply to get a portion of it and again, if people don't apply for it, they pocket the money meant for the artists themselves.

    Each blank CD, or tape we buy there's a media tax. The money from this goes to the CRIA to distribute to the artists in compensation for people using the blank media for piracy. How the law works here in Canada is when you "buy a CD" you are actually buying a license to that listen to that performance of the song privately. Canadian corporate law is based off of when you pay money, you have to get something in return. This is what makes downloading songs, or transferring them to another media for your own use legal in Canada.

    It is legal to download songs in Canada, but it is not legal to download a song and listen to it that you don't have a license to.
  • Re:Freedom (Score:5, Informative)

    Why should someone need a license to investigate something? I have no love for the RIAA, but that law seems to be a much bigger threat to individual freedom than the RIAA itself.
    Often licenses are issued so that there is some power of somebody, i.e. something you can take away from them, which gives the state the ability to ensure that the person or entity is complying with law. In MediaSentry's case, its sloppy 'investigation' yields (a) more than 50% false positives in terms of identification alone, and (b) in 100% of the cases, no evidence that the individual pursued actually infringed a copyright. If you were being forced to pay someone $4500 to get them not to sue you, for something you hadn't done, I think it would be crystal clear why one needs a license to be an investigator. It's because lawsuits are being based on their work, and people's lives are being destroyed by their work. In such cases, if they had a license, the state would have regulatory authority over them by being able to threaten them with revocation of their license. Absent a license, the state's only authority is to pursue them criminally for having sidestepped the licensing law.
  • California (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @12:18PM (#22718018)

    >Is Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG 'investigator' MediaSentry operating illegally in your state?.

    They do not appear to be licensed in California. A check with the Department of Consumer Affairs [ca.gov] license search does not show a license for MediaSentry. Searching on "Media" shows a delinquent license for Media Center Investigations in Kern County. It is, of course, possible that they are licensed under some other corporate identity.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:3, Informative)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @12:35PM (#22718260) Journal
    You give good reasons why the results of their investigations should not be admitted into court, shouldn't that be enough?

    NewYorkCountryLawyer also gave the reason why it shouldn't be allowed to happen in the first place: "If you were being forced to pay someone $4500 to get them not to sue you, for something you hadn't done,". That means they are threatening you before you ever enter a court. It's more of a gamble than many people want to make to stand up to a big company with many lawyers and apparent "evidence" just because they are mostly sure that the "evidence" won't be admitted. If you haven't done anything wrong, you should have to face that level of threat in the first place, that is why the licensing is at the investigation level.
  • Re:Freedom (Score:4, Informative)

    In states where they would, as you say, have to pursue them criminally, would it be just a fine or would someone be incarcerated? Seems to me that an entity like the RIAA would consider a fine to be just another cost of doing business. Could someone actually (I fervently hope) go to prison for this?
    According to the letter [ilrweb.com] (pdf) from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, it could carry a prison sentence of up to four (4) years.
  • Re:Easier question (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xenographic (557057) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:23PM (#22719026) Homepage Journal
    > Are there any states where they are licensed to investigate?

    They are not licensed in any state, according to what I remember from a past article. Your question then becomes: in how many states are licenses required? As well as, in how many states has MediaSentry conducted investigations?

    Frankly, I'm going to be disappointed if there aren't any sanctions against them when this is all over. I know that they expunged a few things from their website, but I somehow doubt that they've actually stopped investigating.
  • Re:Pennsylvania? (Score:-1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:49PM (#22719380)
    a check on on the state web site (http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us/default.asp?sid=&Facility=True) suggests that they are not.

    (Not only am I an Anonymous Coward, I'm clueless on html, too.)
  • Re:Freedom (Score:3, Informative)

    by bellers (254327) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:31PM (#22720142) Homepage
    Yes, anyone can claim anything they want. That's why the defense gets to cross-examine.

    It's called Impeaching a Witness.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witness_impeachment [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Freedom (Score:2, Informative)

    by happyslayer (750738) <david@isisltd.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:26PM (#22720936)

    (B) "Business of private investigation" means, except when performed by one excluded under division (H) of this section, the conducting, for hire, in person or through a partner or employees, of any investigation relevant to any crime or wrong done or threatened, or to obtain information on the identity, habits, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, transactions, reputation, credibility, or character of any person, or to locate and recover lost or stolen property, or to determine the cause of or responsibility for any libel or slander, or any fire, accident, or damage to property, or to secure evidence for use in any legislative, administrative, or judicial investigation or proceeding.

    That is directly from the Ohio Revised Code [ohio.gov], first section. Notice that the rest of the law says that you have to have a license to perform investigation work for hire. No, you don't need a license to look into things for yourself, but you do need a license to perform this kind of work for someone else for pay.

    The distinction is important, because, as others have said, you do affect the public when you perform investigative work. You affect the target of the investigation, you affect your client, and you (can) directly affect the courts. That's the reasoning behind having a license in the first place.

    Disclaimer/Notice/whatever...: IANAL, but I am a licensed private investigator in Ohio. I'm familiar with the laws governing my particular profession, and I (and my investigators) always work within those laws, both spirit and letter. It's much easier than going to jail.

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