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RIAA Backs Down In Austin, Texas 230

Posted by kdawson
from the walking-away-slowly dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In November, 2004, several judges in the federal court in Austin, Texas, got together and ordered the RIAA to cease and desist from its practice of joining multiple 'John Does' in a single case. The RIAA blithely ignored the order, and continued the illegal practice for the next four years, but steering clear of Austin. In 2008, however, circumstances conspired to force the record companies back to that venue. In Arista v. Does 1-22, in Providence, Rhode Island, they were hoping to get the student identities from Rhode Island College. After the first round, however, they learned that the College was not the ISP; rather, the ISP was an Austin-based company, Apogee Telecom Inc., meaning the RIAA would have to serve its subpoena in Austin. The RIAA did just that, but Apogee — unlike so many other ISP's — did not turn over its subscribers' identities in response to the subpoena, instead filing objections. This meant the RIAA would have to go to court, to try to get the Court to overrule Apogee's objections. Instead, it opted to withdraw the subpoena and drop its case."
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RIAA Backs Down In Austin, Texas

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  • Analogy (Score:5, Funny)

    by xmarkd400x (1120317) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:52AM (#26447591)

    Kid: "Mommy, can I go to the store by myself?"
    Mom: "No, son."

    5 minutes later

    Kid: "Daddy, can I go to the store by myself?"
    Dad: "Sure, son. Here's a dollar. Get a candy bar".

    1 minute later

    Mom: "SO I HEARD YOU WENT BEHIND MY BACK AND ASKED YOUR FATHER TO GO TO THE STORE"
    Kid: "I just mentioned it to him. I don't want to go anymore. Thanks, bye!"

    Mom: *Result Pending*

    • Re:Analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:17AM (#26447869)

      Pity nothing's going to happen to them over this.

      It doesn't seem to matter if they drop every case that's going badly for them, it has no real effect on the other half.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        It doesn't seem to matter if they drop every case that's going badly for them, it has no real effect on the other half.

        salad bar justice. pick some from here- don't like that thing? - go pick some others over there.

        when you do wrong things, you get fined or punished. RIAA is doing (repeatedly) wrong things. so where is THEIR punishment?

        kids, STEAL music all you frickin want. the laws are still not working (yet) and so I give you free permission and free reign to do whatever the hell you want with cd's,

        • Re:Analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

          by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:43AM (#26448231)

          While the Ignore-any-law-you-don't-like thing doesn't appeal to me I'd instead sugest creating some decently effecient darknets to make this "Lets sue everyone and drop the case against anyone who looks like they have the means to actually defend themselves" utterly impotent.

  • Rinse and Repeat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:52AM (#26447599)
    Once again, they back down, meaning that they performed the legal equivalent of "Ha Ha Ha, just kidding, can't you take a joke?" At some point, they're going to get slapped down hard for these tactics and on that day, there will be much cheering from Slashdot.
    • They're paying back less than 25 cents on the dollar - a nice legal scam^Wsettlement. Why aren't they being forced into bankruptcy and everything sold off?

      How much you want to be they now ask for bailout money [youtube.com]?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zappepcs (820751)

      RIAA: Haha, just kidding, can't you take a joke?

      Judge Roy Bean: BANG!... ermmm NO

      I posit that if the RIAA had to hire bullet proof lawyers there would be very little litigation on their behalf.

    • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:07AM (#26447779)

      At some point, they're going to get slapped down hard for these tactics and on that day, there will be much cheering from Slashdot.

      I think it will come in the form of a rush to get ISP's headquartered in Austin. Many shools looking to avoid the legal problems would change ISP's as a risk avoidance move. Does anyone know if any Portland area ISP's are based in Austin?

    • A Question for Ray (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      How can they keep doing this? I'm amazed that nobody from the RIAA has been slapped with contempt of court or some other law.

      • by beadfulthings (975812) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:37AM (#26448129) Journal

        As far as I'm concerned, you're asking half of the Great Imponderable Question. I'll add the other half:

        1) They can't be making any money off this. The kinds of people they sue aren't among the wealthier members of society. There's a big difference between getting a judgment and actually collecting the money.

        2) It's not acting as a deterrent. People are still out there doing what they do as recording sales continue to fall.

        So the other half of the question is: Why do they keep doing this?

        • by harl (84412)

          They can testify before congress that they are spending money trying to pursue it in civil court but that doesn't work so they need stricter laws use of the national guard.

        • Why do they keep doing this?

          FUD, if they don't do it, no one will, so they press on to create fear on the part of potential file sharers and uncertainty in the general population as to what is and isn't legal.

          I doubt it's working out to the ultimate benefit of the record companies, but there's probably an exec or two that feels vindicated about not being able to buy that G5 outright and having to continue to lease it because of diminishing revenue, at least he made some people miserable in return.

        • Simply because there are still people pirating does not mean these efforts are completely, 100% ineffective.
        • As far as I'm concerned, you're asking half of the Great Imponderable Question. I'll add the other half: 1) They can't be making any money off this.

          Losing money hand over fist.

          The kinds of people they sue aren't among the wealthier members of society.

          Usually.

          There's a big difference between getting a judgment and actually collecting the money.

          That's right. And each default judgment cost them plenty.

          2) It's not acting as a deterrent. People are still out there doing what they do as recording sales continue to fall.

          So I'm told. So the other half of the question is: Why do they keep doing this?

          My theory is that (1) a corporation is managed by its management, (2) the management in the case of the big 4 record companies are total failures, and (3) this campaign was based on a premise that they fabricated to deflect attention from their own failure: that the existence of p2p file sharing software is the sole reason for their failure. They had to push the campaign to try to pretend they believed in the premise.

          • by beadfulthings (975812) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:21PM (#26449977) Journal

            Did you ever read Barbara Tuchman's book "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam"? She defines folly as an organization or government's deliberate pursuit of policies that are against their own best interests, often despite ample evidence and warnings. Aside from the semi-mythic Troy and the very real United States, she also looks at the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation, England at the time of the American Revolution, and a couple of others. It's a fascinating book, even twenty-odd years after its first publication. Every time I read one of these RIAA posts, I'm reminded of it. Their actions seem to me to meet all her criteria for folly.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I don't look at it as "governments" or "organizations". The decisions are made by human beings. In today's world too many corporations allow the human beings in charge of the corporations to get away with murder, something like the fox being in charge of the hen house. The idiots who drove these companies into the ground aren't interested in the companies; they're interested in their own careers.
  • I wish we could just take all the lawyers that flagrantly violate court orders like that and put them in jail for contempt. Alas, our judicial system is such that these violations either go unnoticed or at least barely noticed by the district attorneys. They've got bigger fish to fry. But, man, once just once, one of them should teach these guys a lesson.

    • I don't think it's up to the DA... In every legal drama I've ever seen, it's entirely up to the judge's digression to find someone in contempt of court. My guess is that if they HAD gone before a judge in Austin, that is exactly what would have happened. Unfortunately, and IANAL, I believe that even federal judges' ruling are only regional unless the judges happen to be on the Supreme Court. So yes, the RIAA violated the ruling by filing the subpoena to the Austin ISP, but they are still free to file them i
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:59AM (#26447693)

    they were hoping to get the student identities from the College of Rhode Island

    As a RI resident, I can pretty confidently say that there no "College of Rhode Island".

    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:05AM (#26447753)

      The colleges with the closest names to "College of Rhode Island" are:

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        How can they fit that many colleges in Rhode Island? ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jellomizer (103300)

          You think that is amazing. You should see how many Corporations are based in Rhode Island.

          Granted RI is a small state, roughly 40 miles square. But if you look at your own (or closest) city there are probably 3 or 4 colleges within 10 miles square of it.

          Lets use the Little City of Troy, NY
          RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Hudson Vally Community College, and Russel Sage All within 5 miles of each other.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Holi (250190)

            really you think RI is only 40 square miles? Please stop talking as you know absolutely nothing about my state. It is a small state but it is actually about 1500 square miles.

            Come on slashdot how long do I have to wait between posts now

            It's been 6 minutes since you last successfully posted a comment

        • by scorp1us (235526)

          Well you see, RIC is down the street, on the left.

          CCRI is down the street and on he right.

          URI is right here.

          Seriously.

          My friends and I and I were on a road trip in RI, to see Ms Teen RI, who they'd met on a cruise (before being awarded the title, before college). My friend and I went to pick up the other friend from Worcester P.I., and decided to stop by her place and hang out. We got lost, and asked come cop for directions. It turned out we were in the exact opposite corner of the state. Three turns and 2

          • by russotto (537200)

            My friends and I and I were on a road trip in RI, to see Ms Teen RI, who they'd met on a cruise (before being awarded the title, before college). My friend and I went to pick up the other friend from Worcester P.I., and decided to stop by her place and hang out. We got lost, and asked come cop for directions. It turned out we were in the exact opposite corner of the state. Three turns and 20 minutes later, we rolled up at her house.

            Wait. A slashdotter and a bunch of his friends asked a cop for directions t

            • by AviLazar (741826)
              No, wait, on second thought, he probably realized they were slashdotters and figured it was perfectly save.

              Or that they were lying, and no way a pre-beauty queen would invite them. Cop probably thought "these kids, it's not april fools".
        • 4500+ institutions of "higher learning" in the U.S. - it only makes sense that RI would get a few.
      • I wonder if the University of Rhode Island (URI.EDU) has a good class on Internet Protocols. Those are one of those good domain names to have a proxy server in.
        gotomy.uri.edu

    • As a RI resident, I can pretty confidently say that there no "College of Rhode Island".

      Sorry about that. You are of course correct. It's "Rhode Island College". My apologies.

      A person my age should no longer work from memory.

  • While it is a good thing to see more of these ludicrous John Doe cases dismissed, it could have been rather comical to see RIAA go up before a judge that had told them to stop the bundling. I mean come on, it always works out for you when you ignore the order of several judges.
  • by n3tcat (664243) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:10AM (#26447813) Homepage

    Probably not. I expect they'll continue with their bullshit in other states while lawyers who haven't done their homework will not be able to help their clients.

    That's just what I expect, though, because I know that it's better to expect the worst and hope for the best.

  • ISP Safe Haven (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ristoril (60165)
    So can we expect ISPs to start incorporating in Texas the way that credit card companies like to incorporate in Delaware [wikipedia.org]? Granted, the former would be for protection from industry harassment and the latter is for protection from usury laws, but if I were an ISP I'd certainly look on Texas as a nice place to call "home" for legal purposes.
  • They do this because they're all cases that would work so poorly in a court for them.

    And still get away with it, despite consistent abuse of the legal system like this.

    No longer a laughing matter... :-(

  • It all blows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thyamine (531612) <thyamine@ofdrago ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:21AM (#26447917) Homepage Journal
    The RIAA cannot be forgiven for the things they try and pull, or the extortion they have forced onto many people. But it drives me nuts the people that still continue to grab their music illegally which just helps prolong and reinforce the idea that the RIAA is needed (to record companies). Buy a CD, buy from iTunes, buy from Amazon, I don't care. I know people who can absolutely afford to purchase their music legally, but don't. Not because of any stance against record companies or compensation for artists. They just do it, 'because'. It's free after all. BLARG.
    /RANT
    Sorry. Just had to say it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Better : Stop buying music from RIAA member but continue to buy music from the truly independents, or from the artists themselves

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Lorienthin (1439867)
        I have to agree with this perspective. I think that with all of the ways for a band to "get heard" nowadays, it is easier for them to make it on an indy label or by themselves. Not only to the get a larger share if we buy music directly from them, we also circumvent throwing our money at the RIAA, and further supporting their predatory practices.
    • Re:It all blows (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:58AM (#26448449) Homepage Journal

      But it drives me nuts the people that still continue to grab their music illegally which just helps prolong and reinforce the idea that the RIAA is needed (to record companies).

      You buy into the myths that 1) piracy hurts copyright holders 2) the RIAA is afraid of pirates 3) The RIAA is the only (or best) place to get music.

      For the first, see lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons and the introduction to Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. Both are posted in full on the internet, and both are selling well; I read Doctorow's book on the internet, and then bought a hardcover copy that sits on by bookshelf like CDs ought to.

      If you want to hear the latest RIAA top 40 dreck, turn on the radio. It's free and it's legal, and if you want a digital copy of that single you can sample the radio. Legal? I don't know, but back in the cassette days they specifically made recording off the air legal.

      I would urge everyone to NOT download, buy, or listen to RIAA music, even though any lost sales due to the boycott that has been going on for years is attributed to piracy. You have internet radio with thousands of stations with tons of indie music. You have local bands, all of whom record these days. Buy from them and you will get higher quality and a far lower price.

      I know people who can absolutely afford to purchase their music legally, but don't. Not because of any stance against record companies or compensation for artists. They just do it, 'because'. It's free after all.

      Odd, I don't know a single one. I hear it from the RIAA all the time, but have never met this mythical pirate. Why would one steal bottled water when you have a filtered tap on your sink and money in your pocket? Almost every non-RIAA band WANTS you to download their music, and to do it for free. They know that nobody ever lost money from "piracy" but most suffer from obscurity, including RIAA bands; they can't get everyone on the radio.

      BTW, iTunes doesn't sell music, they rent it. If you want to "buy music" you need to buy a CD, as you have resale and lending rights with it. It is a physical object. When you rent from the internet, you own nothing. P2P and digital downloads should be what the indies use it for -- promotion. The RIAA is trying to kill P2P not because "piracy" hurts sales, but because your hearing indie music hurts RIAA sales.

      Stop doing business with sociopaths.

      • Simpler still, I think it is just more convenient to pirate today than it is to purchase. On the pirate networks, you can download and sample thousands of tracks, decide what you like, delete the rest. Who is going to pay thousands of dollars up front for that kind of selection just to throw most of it away? The sampling features available on Amazon, etc. are a joke compared to the convenience of getting a batch and listening when you feel like it. Some of the subscription services may come close to co

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          The sampling features available on Amazon, etc. are a joke compared to the convenience of getting a batch and listening when you feel like it.

          A real life illustration of that is how Samtanna's label almost lost a sale due to the 30 second samples. This was back when Supernatural first came out, before I was boycotting. I'd always liked that band, but hadn't listened to anything after about their third album.

          I fired up CD-NOW, with the 30 second samples, and thought "holy sheep shorts, they're REALLY gone do

      • by Thyamine (531612)

        If you want to hear the latest RIAA top 40 dreck, turn on the radio. It's free and it's legal, and if you want a digital copy of that single you can sample the radio. Legal? I don't know, but back in the cassette days they specifically made recording off the air legal.

        Well that's just silly. People want to take their music with them, and whether or not you listen to Top 40 songs/classical music/country/whatever doesn't matter. If you are a fan of independent artists, that's great, but most of what people are exposed to comes from record companies with ties to the RIAA. If my favorite artist sold their music directly to me, that would be great, but at least if I'm buying it in some format I know that at least some amount is in fact going to them.

        Odd, I don't know a single one. I hear it from the RIAA all the time, but have never met this mythical pirate. Why would one steal bottled water when you have a filtered tap on your sink and money in your pocket?

        That's great. Now we h

      • by AviLazar (741826)
        1) piracy hurts copyright holders

        It's not a myth. If I want music X and I can get it for free w/o recourse I will take it for free. If, however, there is recourse (going to jail, paying fines, etc) then I will think "hmm maybe I should go spend the 1.5 on iTunes, or record it from the radio". So it is a deterrent. Maybe not to some people who firmly believe they are safe on the anonymous internet...but some people are not willing to take that chance. It works, maybe not on the standard /. crew, but
  • I love how this is tagged with 'hahahahaha' 'riaasucks' and 'bastards'.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Content

    Down with all of these cartels.

  • That's a pretty egregious example of forum-shopping.

  • Accountants? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by db32 (862117) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:29AM (#26448035) Journal

    Seriously...where the hell are their accountants at? Anyone who actually has gone through the required business classes would be well aware of how insane their imaginary losses are. Now, that is not the same as using those insane numbers to further a media blitz, but internally that nonsense does not stand up to any kind of sanity test. So...with a more realistic number on "lost sales" I can't imagine that there is a terribly high real return on their lawsuit happy nonsense. I imagine the costs of these constant legal battles take a pretty huge chunk of change.

    • Re:Accountants? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:57AM (#26448421)
      Quantifying the amount of money lost to pirating must be next to impossible. First off, you have to deduct the number of people who would have never bought it even if there weren't a free version available. Then you have to deduct the number of people who actually do buy it after pirating it as sort of a test run to see if they'd actually like to "own" it. Only after you filter out those cases can you truly get down to the list of people who pirate and even if they had the means to buy it wouldn't because they don't believe they should have to pay for it.

      as far as I'm concerned the only people they should be going after are those who sell bootleg copies, as they are actually making money off of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's worse than that.... before legal downloads P2P file sharing of music caused their sales to go .... UP!

      The only thing that seems to have made the sales go down is *legal* downloads ....

      • by db32 (862117)
        Again...this is what kills me, and why their business is such a damned train wreck. They are letting people with no fucking business sense make the decisions (namely the legal teams). Their accountants probably have a much more realistic view of the numbers and their martketing guys have got to be screaming bloody murder as more and more artists jump ship and go to this new "give it away so they buy it" style model and are taking all the money home themselves instead of giving the big labels their cut.

        U
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      Well, the motion picture companies have been inventing their own accounting system for years, it's no wonder the music biz also has some questionable numbers.
    • It's not the lawsuits that cost the RIAA a ton of money. It's all because of pirates. Y'see, if it weren't for pirates, then they wouldn't have to spend all this money on lawyers in the first place! So there ya have it... even the legal costs are a direct result of piracy. It makes PERFECT sense!

      Oh hey, and on a random note, I've got this really awesome bridge for sale out in London, if you're looking to buy.

    • by tsstahl (812393)

      Anyone who actually has gone through the required business classes would be well aware of how insane their imaginary losses are.

      Unfortunately, insanity has a cushy home among lobbyists and congress.

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:29AM (#26448039)

    I see a very bright outlook for Apogee Telecom's ISP business this year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I see a very bright outlook for Apogee Telecom's ISP business this year.

      Yes, I think their willingness to stand up for the rule of law is something to be proud of. And I think people will respect that.

  • No need to RTFA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gollito (980620)
    That has to be one of the best summaries I've ever read on slashdot. I didn't even have to RTFA and I am up to speed on the story.
    • That has to be one of the best summaries I've ever read on slashdot. I didn't even have to RTFA and I am up to speed on the story.

      Interesting you should say that, because I was agonizing over it. I felt maybe I put in too much stuff. But I didn't know how to convey the import of their running away with their tail between their legs, without explaining the background. Glad you feel that I'd done it right.

  • Illegal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AviLazar (741826) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:47AM (#26449301) Journal

    In November, 2004, several judges in the federal court in Austin, Texas, got together and ordered the RIAA to cease and desist from its practice of joining multiple 'John Does' in a single case. The RIAA blithely ignored the order, and continued the illegal practice for the next four years, but steering clear of Austin.

    Am I missing something? So what made this illegal? If they didn't do the act in Austin then they didn't do anything illegal. I am no fan of RIAA but to call something illegal when it is not is wrong. They complied with the judges wishes and stopped doing what they were doing in the Judge's jurisdiction.

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