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RIAA Loses Case Against Launch Media 86

Posted by kdawson
from the matter-of-law dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA's claim that personalized internet radio stations were 'interactive services' was flatly rejected 'as a matter of law' by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Arista Records v. Launch Media. In affirming the jury's verdict in favor of the defendant, Launch Media — acquired during the lawsuit by Yahoo! — the Court said it did not even need to concern itself with possible errors in the jury instructions, since the trial judge should have directed a verdict for defendant 'as a matter of law' on the question of whether the radio stations were 'interactive services.' At pages 23-42 of its 42-page opinion (PDF), the appeals court carefully analyzed how Launch Media's personalized internet radio stations worked, and noted that the users could neither obtain and play on demand a particular song, nor obtain the transmission of a particular program, thus rendering the RIAA's claim of 'interactivity' meritless."
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RIAA Loses Case Against Launch Media

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  • "RIAA loses" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:48PM (#29157181) Journal
    I can't wait for the day that headline becomes so commonplace I get bored of it.
    • by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:54PM (#29157227) Journal
      It's music to my ears.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You use Firefox running on Gentoo in English!
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Don't you think he'd know that?

          Although, yes, I can see how that may come in handy should he ever forget.

        • He's also in the US... or else he just chose to use google.com instead of something else...

          Of course he could always be spoofing the UA string... or even hand-crafting the URL...

    • by BCW2 (168187)
      I don't think I would get bored if it was less that 2 or 3 times a day!
    • Would it ever get old?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I can't wait for the day that headline becomes so commonplace I get bored of it.

      It won't. They may be delusional, but they're not stupid. If they stop winning, they won't keep throwing cash at the lawyers.

      • The day they stop suing poor people who can't afford lawyers is the day they lose their revenue source...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If they stop winning, they won't keep throwing cash at the lawyers.

        I wouldn't say they keep "winning". They've had 2 trials, in 1 of which the defendant admitted liability. In most contested cases they've discontinued the case, scurrying away with their tails between their legs.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I can't wait for the day when there is no RIAA. The established recording industry is of no use to anyone since the advent of cheap recording and duplication. Good musical instruments are expensive, recording them no longer is.

      It's a zombie industry that needs a stake through its heart or something.

  • Pandora? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Miros (734652) * on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:57PM (#29157235)
    Does this mean that Pandora does not have to pay per performance interactive service royalty rates anymore? Isn't this huge for Pandora type services?
    • Re:Pandora? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @04:07PM (#29157289)

      Pandora has some semblance of interactivity that regular streaming radio does not.

      You can vote song/artists off the island, and fine tune the selection to your particular tastes.

      Still, you might be on to something here because you still can't order up a song at will, nor know what is coming ahead of time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Miros (734652) *
        Right. I just read over the whole decision, and other than the details of the specific implementation, the overall logic of the random/unpredictable nature of the playlist is what makes it non-interactive. In the LAUNCH service in question, users rated songs individually as well, and were also able to skip them as you are in Pandora. I think this stencils pretty directly onto the other service, right? users are unable to choose the specific song in either case, only preferences.
        • Re:Pandora? (Score:4, Funny)

          by DevConcepts (1194347) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @05:00PM (#29157551)

          Right. I just read over the whole decision......

          You read all 42 pages??? You must be new to /.! Nobody reads it all here.

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            'read over' isn't the same as actually reading everything.

          • Right. I just read over the whole decision......

            You read all 42 pages??? You must be new here. Nobody reads it all here.

            There, fixed that for you.

            • You must be new to /.

              You read all 42 pages??? You must be new here. Nobody reads it all here.

              There, fixed that for you.

              Sarcasm
              You might be new here if you haven't figured out what "/." means....
              /Sarcasm

          • Well, I used to be a paid Launchcast subscriber before it was flushed by Yahoo. That about sums up the experience for paid subscribers. Unpaid subscribers had limited skips and a few commercials now and again.

            I do like Pandora, but I greatly preferred my Launchcast stations because you could rate genres 1 to 100, artists 1 to 100, albums 1 to 100, and songs 1 to 100. Then you could apply moods to your stations. It was VERY granular and my station only played the songs I really really liked or wanted to l
  • Pandora (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SydShamino (547793) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:59PM (#29157243)

    Will this lead to lower rates for Pandora? From the summary they sound like a similar service, yet the fact they aren't being sued implies to me that they've "paid up" at the higher, interactive rate.

    I give Pandora referrer credit for every song I buy from Amazon or iTunes, but since Pandora can't track referrer income to particular uses, I still get hit up to pay their RIAA-tax subscription money or GTFO their service each month. I know Pandora has to do it to survive, but if this ruling lowers their rates maybe they can do away with the audio ads or raise the monthly cap.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      There was a commercial on the radio yesterday touting a new Federal law called the Local Radio Freedom Act [nab.org], which is designed to keep radio from paying the same fees as Pandora. The commercial said that my congressman (John Shimkis (R) and both my Senators (Richard Durbin (D) and Roland Burris (D, unelected) are all for it. I think I'll write them and tell them internet radio shouldn't have to pay, either.

  • What does "as a matter of law" really mean?

    How does it differ from "as a matter of fact"?

    IANAL - nor can I afford one to answer this question.

    • by Miros (734652) *
      I think what they mean it in the sense that it's a direct application of statute, not a matter of debate, just clarification and determining if the law as written applies. (AFAIK)
    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      I know Wikipedia is often shunned, but this page [wikipedia.org] might still give you some insight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      The difference is what the words would imply. A matter of law is one where the question (and/or answer) are related to the law on the books. The specific facts of the case aren't relevant, because the law itself is what we are talking about here. A good example would be if a mechanic was charged with 1st degree murder for forgetting to check if the breaks on a vehicle were good. The facts of the case, if the mechanic actually did check or not, wouldn't be relevant. The reason is that as a matter of law, tha

      • not quite (Score:5, Informative)

        by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:15PM (#29159227) Journal

        I'm a lawyer, but this isn't legal advice. If you get your legal advice here, you may as well just sign away your house, children, and car now and savve on legal fees . . .

        Anyway . . .

        That's not quite right; the facts as alleged by that party do matter. "As a matter of law" means that the evidence doesn't matter. Such a ruling means that even if they could prove everything that they alleged, they would still lose.

        In this case, they found that the judge did indeed err--but not by giving the wrong instructions, as the RIAA alleged, but by even letting the jury hear the case, as no reasonable jury could have found for the RIAA. (Yeah, and here we get a bit murky with two overlapping "as a matter of law" usages, one on the allegations, and one on the strength of the evidence. Life's rough :)

        hawk, esq

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jasonwc (939262)
      An issue can be decided as a matter of "law" or "fact". If it a factual matter, than the final arbiter will be the factfinder which is usually a jury, but can be a judge, in a bench trial. However, some issues are considered to be so obvious, or of a public policy or legal nature, such that Congress or the appellate courts have deemed it appropriate to leave the decision up to the judge, rather than the factfinder (jury). This is a very important distinction. First, if an issue is a matter of law, an appel
      • by jasonwc (939262)
        BTW, phrases such as "matter of law" are terms of art, and the usage is often different from that of lay English (say, that you would find in a standard dictionary). While the definition can sometimes be derived from the word alone, it's best to look it up in a dedicated law dictionary such as Black's Law Dictionary. There are many issues which courts have deemed to be "matters of law" that are clearly factual in nature. It's a policy determination - and thus the distinction can not always be derived from
    • by StevenMaurer (115071) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @04:46PM (#29157483) Homepage

      I am not an lawyer either, but the concept between a "matter of law" and a "matter of fact" is pretty basic.

      Matters of fact: "I didn't do it." "Yes you did."

      Matters of law: "Of course I did it; it ain't against the law, bub!" "Yes it is".

      In this case, the fact that internet radio stations were broadcasting copyrighted material (for which they had the proper licenses) was not in doubt. The question was one of law: is that an "interactive service" or not, which has additional restrictions on it?

      • I am not an lawyer either, but the concept between a "matter of law" and a "matter of fact" is pretty basic. Matters of fact: "I didn't do it." "Yes you did." Matters of law: "Of course I did it; it ain't against the law, bub!" "Yes it is". In this case, the fact that internet radio stations were broadcasting copyrighted material (for which they had the proper licenses) was not in doubt. The question was one of law: is that an "interactive service" or not, which has additional restrictions on it?

        In the context in which it was said in this case, it meant simply that there was no factual issue, that under the conceded undisputed facts, it was not interactive, no matter how you slice it.

    • What does "as a matter of law" really mean?
      How does it differ from "as a matter of fact"?
      IANAL - nor can I afford one to answer this question.

      :) It means that there is no factual "issue" for the jury to resolve. I.e., that based upon the known facts, it is automatic that this is not "interactive" within the meaning of the statute.

      No charge.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Perhaps this is a myth, but alledgedly one US state legislature decreed that pi be equal to 3. So as a matter of law, pi is 3, while as a matter of fact it's ~3.14172 (iirc).

  • Court Costs Paid? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @04:17PM (#29157357)
    The last line of the ruling says: The district court's judgment of May 16, 2007 in favor 15 of Appellee is hereby AFFIRMED with costs.

    Does this mean the RIAA pays the victim's court costs?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Legal Penguin (114844)

      Yes, but note that "costs" are not the same as "fees". Court costs are quite minimal -- filing fees and such -- it's not the same as attorney's fees and the other expenses related to litigation.

      Incidentally, to clarify the question above, "as a matter of law" means that the question could have been resolved by the judge on a motion to dismiss (without reference to the facts and assuming all facts to be true as alleged in the complaint), rather than on a motion for summary judgment (which relies on statement

    • Re:Court Costs Paid? (Score:4, Informative)

      by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <[ray] [at] [beckermanlegal.com]> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @05:52PM (#29157933) Homepage Journal

      The last line of the ruling says: The district court's judgment of May 16, 2007 in favor 15 of Appellee is hereby AFFIRMED with costs. Does this mean the RIAA pays the victim's court costs?

      In that context, it just referred to certain costs incurred in connection with the appeal. But under the Copyright Act the plaintiffs may indeed be liable for defendant's attorneys fees.

  • by rwade (131726) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @05:34PM (#29157775)

    This may or may not impact Pandora, but the service at the center of this dispute was eliminated [wikipedia.org] last spring by Yahoo.

  • Grooveshark allows you to search for individual songs, play them, make playlists, etc. Is grooveshark doomed to become RIAA fodder?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Only if they argue that they should be paying the statutory fees instead of the per-song licensing.

      If they're happily/unhappily ponying up the per-song license fees, they're in the clear.

  • You don't hear a lot from them in the news anymore. They've got their big iron, I suppose, and were hyping their mainframes as more cost effective to run than clusters of computers. You don't hear about a lot of AIX out there anymore, even though Sun went down the tubes. Seems like every time I see a data center or a CRM application these days it's either Windows or Linux and usually web-based.

    You know, I've seen this a couple times before. About a decade ago I was a a Linux con and SGI was there. They we

  • If this is indeed the case, that an internet station is just like a "regular" station, then how many can someone have? I am picturing this:

    "This is all The Beatles 'Strawberry Fields Forever', all the time!"
    "This is the Foo Fighters 'The Pretender', all day and all night!"

    One station playing the same song over and over. Or even just the same album. Actual over-the-air radio stations couldn't afford to do this, but with the Internet, it would be fairly easy. You could "tune in" to the station, record it once

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Considering the playlist rotation of the top-40 stations, you can pretty much do that anyway. Plug you computer into your radio and let it sample, you'll probably have a copy of that song in a couple of hours.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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