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U. Maine Law Students Trying To Shut RIAA Down 229

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Remember those pesky student attorneys from the University of Maine School of Law's Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, who inspired the Magistrate Judge to suggest monetary fines against the RIAA lawyers? Well they're in the RIAA's face once again, and this time they're trying to shut down the RIAA's whole 'discovery' machine: the lawsuits it files against 'John Does' in order to find out their names and addresses. They've gone and filed a Rule 11 motion for sanctions (PDF), seeking — among other things — an injunction against all such 'John Doe' cases, arguing that the cases seek to circumvent the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act which protects student privacy rights, are brought for improper purposes of obtaining discovery, getting publicity, and intimidation, and are in flagrant violation of the joinder rules and numerous court orders. If the injunction is granted, the RIAA will have to go back to the drawing board to find another way of finding out the identities of college students, and the ruling — depending on its reasoning — might even be applicable to the non-college cases involving commercial ISPs."
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U. Maine Law Students Trying To Shut RIAA Down

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  • No evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Merls the Sneaky ( 1031058 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @08:22AM (#22939316)
    All the so called evidence the RIAA has would be circumstantial. Just because a particular computer was at a particular IP address does not mean a particular individual was responsible for the infringement. I certainly hope they are fully successful.
    • Re:No evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:15AM (#22939624)
      it's even worse because an IP doesn't mean you even have the computer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kierthos ( 225954 )
      For colleges, this is especially true. What if the IP is for a computer in a classroom or lab? Oh look, suddenly, it's gone from 1 or 2 possible students using a dorm room computer, to potentially hundreds of students having access. (There are/were several computer labs at the university I went to which were open to anyone, and several others where you only needed to know the door code to get in, and they were remarkably simple to learn.)
    • Re:No evidence (Score:5, Informative)

      by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @10:36AM (#22940288)
      "Circumstantial" does not mean any of the following, about evidence: (1) inadmissible; (2) insufficient to prove a fact in court; or (3) unreliable. You can be convicted of murder based on nothing but circumstantial evidence, if it is strong enough. Otherwise, murderers who hide their victims' bodies the best could not be convicted. And the RIAA only has to prove infringement by a preponderance of the evidence, a much lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt as required for a criminal conviction.

      This is about the RIAA's abuse of the discovery process and, in particular, its filing lawsuits for the sole purpose of collecting evidence through discovery. You personally can't just send me interrogatories [] without having a pending lawsuit against me, and you also can't file a lawsuit whose only purpose is to allow you to send me interrogatories. And that's what the RIAA is apparently doing, rampantly.
      • But... there was that episode of the Brady Bunch where Bobby thought Cindy had stolen his piggy bank based on circumstantial evidence, and Mike told him that was wrong. You all know the one... Bobby called it "circumspecial".

        And the idea that it was wrong was reinforced by the fact that it turned out that the dog had taken it--as well as Cindy's doll--and buried it in the back yard. Thus, the Brady precedent was set, and circumspecial evidence is not and shall never be admissible in court, in my mind.

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )
          Circumstantial evidence is much like concluding that mice are made from wool and wheat.
  • by adpsimpson ( 956630 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @08:23AM (#22939318)

    When I was studying Engineering, the most interesting case studies were the real life cases - actual original research and current theories.

    Similarly here, these students seem to have a deparment which values them enough to give them something interesting AND useful to work on.

    Good on them all.

    • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @10:41AM (#22940316)
      When I was studying Engineering, the most interesting case studies were the real life cases - actual original research and current theories.

      I wonder if many of the engineering students have figured out that an Ubuntu Live CD and a USB hard drive leave no fingerprints on a computer. There are no deleted files. They never existed. DHCP with temporary leases and an editable MAC addresses finish out the playing card. Some networks will allow www through their proxy but not the campus network without a login. ;-)

      Not logged in, a new MAC address and DHCP lease, + no HD writes = no cache, history, or deletions evidence. Find a good place to stash that USB drive. That's the online privacy game at it's finest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @08:29AM (#22939338)
    That's right, it was I who falsely accused thousands of innocent people of having violated copyright. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!
  • by bleh-of-the-huns ( 17740 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @08:34AM (#22939362)
    Dedicated by the RIAA in the near future at the University of Maine.....

    That should get the faculty to shut up those pesky law students :)
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:20AM (#22939674)
      More likely, they will bribe the U.S. Congress directly to cut of federal funding for any college that doesn't bow before the RIAA. They've been trying []. And with Democrats (who are owned by Hollywood) and Republicans (who are owned by big business) dominating Congress pretty much exclusively, it's quite likely they will succeed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by monxrtr ( 1105563 )
        I don't know about that anymore. You are starting to talk huge political downside if you start directly publicly advocating for the RIAA now (except perhaps in a few Hollywood districts). You have tons of pissed off students and tons of pissed off academic administrators who have let it be known they are very unhappy with the heavy handed RIAA techniques and threats to academic freedom. I'd say in at least 80% of political districts advocating for the RIAA would be akin to advocating for Big Tobacco. Judges
    • by sexybomber ( 740588 ) < minus painter> on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:34AM (#22939780)
      I don't know which is more disturbing: the fact that I would fully expect the record companies to stoop that low or the fact that such a ploy might actually work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'd love to see that happen, just so I could laugh. For those who didn't know (which I would assume is all but maybe 5 other people around here), the Maine School of Law isn't actually at the University of Maine, which is in Orono, but at the University of Southern Maine, which is in Portland. Still the state university system, but the campuses are about 150 miles apart.
    • Dedicated by the RIAA in the near future at the University of Maine.....

      That should get the faculty to shut up those pesky law students :)

      And encourage the faculty at other law schools to get their students involved. New RIAA endowments for everyone!

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Kierthos ( 225954 )
        *snort* Yeah, I could actually see that happening here. The nearby law school (less then two blocks away) is trying to get a new building, only they're not doing so well at raising the money through the various means (fundraisers, getting the state to kick in some bucks, alumni donations). I could easily see them taking that path...
  • Rule 11 (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @08:39AM (#22939390)
    In case you were wondering what Rule 11 [] is like I was...
  • It seems like we see a new RIAA related story every day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mantaar ( 1139339 )
      As long as they suffer the same sort of demise SCO has suffered in the end - I don't really mind.

      Besides, RIAA gives us plenty of reason to bitch about them, as long as they do, I actually want to stay informed. I'd be glad to see a rapid decline in bitch-against-RIAA-stories on /. and reddit, but only because that would go hand in hand with a decrease in corruption and braindeadtivity on the MAFIAA's side.
  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:04AM (#22939554) Homepage Journal
    im a foreigner, dont know us law, and even i have understood what they were suing against, and what they were going to use.

    you dont need to have a big name to be a good law school. you just need quality students, and encouraging teachers.
  • by bravo369 ( 853579 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:18AM (#22939654)
    Then they will have too much power to continue these actions. On the flip side, constantly fighting these cases in court is not what RIAA wants to do. They want it settled and out of the way as soon as possible. Hopefully law students in each state all take up this cause pro bono. I say law students because they probably will be most likely to fight pro bono and save the defendants money but also they will probably fight as hard as anyone against the RIAA. Imagine putting that on your resume after law school...that you successfully brought down the RIAA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MarkvW ( 1037596 )
      Lawyers are very much like football coaches in at least one respect. When one thing works, everybody copies it to death. If the RIAA gets slammed for abusive discovery processes in Maine, other lawyers will try to play the same game elsewhere. Rule 11 means that the abusive litigant (or their lawyer) has to pay money - - sometimes LOTS of money. Rule 11 sanctions have the power to strike fear into the heart of lawyers. The RIAA will have to change their game if they lose. I can't imagine Congress wadi
  • by mbrod ( 19122 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:33AM (#22939774) Homepage Journal
    The RIAA is creating a whole generation of enemies by going after College students. Their demise can't happen soon enough.
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @10:14AM (#22940122)
      The RIAA is creating a whole generation of enemies by going after College students. Their demise can't happen soon enough.

      That's what the hippy's thought in the 1960s with free love, drug law reform, and peace. Look at that generation now...
      • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @10:45AM (#22940370)
        which is why these things need to be done quickly, before this generation becomes used to the way things are.
      • by mbrod ( 19122 )
        I can quite easily choose to stop giving any money whatsoever to the RIAA. I can't stop paying my taxes if I disagree with policy.
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      If only the world wasn't so god damn apathetic, we might have something. Most people don't care, and to be honest, there are a lot more important things for most people to worry about. It is quite a luxurious position in, to care about something that doesn't actually kill you.
    • It's just one of the many things that makes GenY so cynical: Bill Clinton lying about sex, GW Bush lying about WMD, low salaries, multi-national corporations, hypocrisy of suburbia (enshrined in American Beauty, the anthem movie of GenY).

      This point was really driven home to me on discussion list recently. All the GenY members were defending graffiti as an artform whereas all the older members were condemning it as vandalism. GenY seems to think vandalism is OK as long as it is done against large corporati

    • What about the members of the RIAA? The music labels deserve their share of the blame for supporting the RIAA with their membership dues. The RIAA exists in part so that their members can act behind the scenes as part of an organization that shields them from the direct wrath of activists, bad PR, and the possible sanctions associated with questionable legal tactics. The RIAA is a contemptible and possibly corrupt organization ala RICO [], but let us not forget the labels who stand behind the RIAA and approve
  • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:56AM (#22939966)
    Using a cantenna, the "smart" students should aim the directional wifi to their dorms and surf on the library IP address. That would be funny. Then the university would HAVE to defend itself against this nonsense instead of throwing its students under the wheels.
  • by esocid ( 946821 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @10:02AM (#22940016) Journal
    IANAL so don't mind me if I'm incorrect here, but in that case the ruling magistrate judge suggested Rule 11 sanctions []. Stating In my view, the Court would be well within its power to direct the Plaintiffs to show cause why they have not violated Rule 11(b) with their allegations respecting joinder. This judge's complaint is the last point of the motion that the legal aid is filing, but if even the judge has problems with what the MAFIAA is doing here I see the defendants winning most, if not all of the points of this motion.
    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )
      The Magistrate goes on to indicate:

      These plaintiffs have devised a clever scheme to obtain court-authorized discovery prior to the service of complaints, but it troubles me that they do so with impunity and at the expense of the requirements of Rule 11(b)(3) because they have no good faith evidentiary basis to believe the cases should be joined.

      Based off of my reading of this part of the decision, I'd also say he had a problem with them doing it in the first place because they were obviously using the filin

  • 1. This may not pass in a court of law, but a way to show there is no intent to distribute but still make available would be a disclaimer when connecting sayign "Unauthorized connections or copying of this data is not permitted." The server could still allow it without resistance, but it would be posted as not allowed.

    This would be like the books on a table in the front yard with a sign that says "Don't steal". No one would be stopping anyone from taking a book, but they owner would be seen as making an eff
    • by cdrguru ( 88047 )
      1. I think there have been laws against stealing since Hammurabi. A sign saying "don't steal" is irrelevent, as is a notice that you shouldn't steal.

      2. No. The whole point is to get as much as you can without paying for it. If it is on the Internet, I and the rest of the Internet-using world doesn't have to pay. Period. The. Internet. Is. Free. OK, can we move on now?

      While it may be regrettable, I do not believe that copyright can survive the way children are being educated today. They learn everyth
  • Trolling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer ( 912032 ) * <> on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @07:08PM (#22945926) Homepage Journal
    I notice that one form of trolling which takes place, every time we have a post on a litigation event in the RIAA cases, is that someone starts some thread about whether it's okay to take people's content without paying for it, whether the money goes to the artists, etc.

    I wish folks with moderation points would mod those posts as "off-topic".

    It's got nothing whatsoever to do with the litigations, which are not about whether it's okay to take people's content without paying for it, but about whether morons with a lot of money in the bank and a bunch of unscrupulous lawyers have the right to be suing (a) innocent people for no reason at all, and (b) people who may have committed copyright infringement for excessive sums of money.

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