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ACLU, EFF, & Others Fight RIAA for Debbie Foster 298

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the rally-the-troops dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In a landmark legal document, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen, the ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation, and the American Association of Law Libraries have submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the motion for attorneys fees that has been made by Deborah Foster in Capitol Records v. Debbie Foster, in federal court in Oklahoma. This brief is mandatory reading for every person who is interested in the RIAA litigation campaign against consumers."
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ACLU, EFF, & Others Fight RIAA for Debbie Foster

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  • Brief Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by billstewart (78916) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:08AM (#15887710) Journal
    • RIAA sues lots of people for copyright infringement, often for allegedly using P2P to share copyrighted music.
    • Sometimes their evidence is dubious, e.g. only an IP address, which might be dynamic, or used by multiple people, such as your kid or the neighbor piggybacking on your wireless.
    • Defending yourself against them is really expensive, so some people settle.
    • ... PROFIT!! (For RIAA.)
    • Debbie Foster claims to be innocent, defends herself in court (I can't tell if she paid for her attorney herself, or got pro bono help), RIAA keeps up lawsuits.
    • Eventually her kid owns up to file sharing, but RIAA doesn't drop their suit against her, keeps it going for another year, cranking up Debbie's legal costs, before dropping it.
    • If somebody sues you and loses, in the US, sometimes you can get awarded your attorney's costs, especially if their suit was bogus, but you can't always win that. (It's easier to get awarded costs if you're the plaintiff and win.)
    • EFF, ACLU, other good guys filed amicus brief encouraging the court to side with Debbie Foster and pay her legal costs, asserting bogusness and nastiness of RIAA's suit.
    • by jkrise (535370) on Friday August 11, 2006 @06:59AM (#15887943) Journal
      1. The **AA has filed suit against more than 18,000 individuals for copyright violation.
      2. The amicus curae is only for award of legal fees to one of the defendants, who was declared not guilty.
      3. A lot of lawyers are going to get rich, since a big proportion of the 18,000+ will win.
      4. The legal system allows a single rich entiry, the **AA to go after thousands of individuals... many of whom often settle despite being not guilty, because of the costs involved.
      5. It is illegal for a large group of individuals to join together and engage in disruptive activities.
      6. This brief does nothing to set right points 4 and 5.
      7. And so, while lots of lawyers might probably get rich, nothing else significant is likely to happen.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday August 11, 2006 @09:01AM (#15888362) Journal
        7. And so, while lots of lawyers might probably get rich, nothing else significant is likely to happen.
        Right, nothing significant will happen... huh?

        Who's paying these legal fees? Right, the members of the RIAA. When they have to pay defendants' legal fees more often, they will find it is no longer close to profitable to chase individuals.

        At that point, these frivolous lawsuits disappear.

        Now, the problem is that no court has ruled that the primary lawsuits they've been using as threats for people to settle are frivolous. This is based upon the second lawsuit involving the defendant. What is needed is a watershed case where a judge legally tosses the RIAA out of court for its frivolous suit, and for that case to hold up on appeal. Then there is precedent, and the RIAA will have to screw itself, because even they can;t afford to pay legal fees for thousands of defendants they are wrongfully suing.
    • ok, i admit i haven't RTF'd,
      but since
      "Eventually her kid owns up to file sharing"
      when did the parent become not responsible for what their kids do?
      What is the basis for the eventual dismissal? Seems like we now have an admission of guilt and a responsible party?
      • Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the parent has ever been legally responsible for what their kid does, providing they didn't encourage or facilitate anything.

        If the RIAA wanted to go after the kid, and the kid had fessed up they probably would have won. But as it is they basically said, "we know you didn't do it, but we're still going to sue you anyway," which seems like a hallmark of frivolity to me. "Oh, and by the way we're going to tack on a charge of 'secondary liability' to bo
        • I'm replying to myself because I thought about my post and wanted to *ahem* retract a few things...

          The parent isn't legally responsible for the kid, but assuming the kid is a minor, the proper cause of action in a civil suit is probably name the kid in the complaint, and sue the parents. Whether the parents are responsible is probably an issue of semantics - the parents will be paying either way.

          Oh, and I looked up secondary liabilty, and if it was a minor child it looks (to my non-expert eye) like the RIA
      • Re:Brief Summary (Score:4, Informative)

        by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday August 11, 2006 @10:39AM (#15888964) Homepage
        "Eventually her kid owns up to file sharing"
        when did the parent become not responsible for what their kids do?
        In general, children are responsible for their own actions, but parents are liable for the result of those actions.
        [Obligatory Car Analogy]
        If (say) an 11 year old child steals a car wrecks it, the child is the only one who can be charged with car theft, but the parents are the ones sued for damage to the car. The problem with the RIAA case here is that they claimed the parent "stole the car", as it were.
  • Of Course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abscissa (136568) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:11AM (#15887717)
    Of course she should be awarded legal costs. Why? Because, no matter what side of the debate you are on, you must agree that the RIAA is using the lawsuits to harass people. That is an abuse of process.
    • Re:Of Course (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grimJester (890090) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:19AM (#15887736)
      Because, no matter what side of the debate you are on, you must agree that the RIAA is using the lawsuits to harass people. That is an abuse of process.

      I don't think a court would call the lawsuits harassment. The real problem here is that even those who are innocent pay up rather than defend themselves due to the cost and risk of doing the latter. In a fair legal system, an innocent man should not feel the need to pay a fee for something he didn't do.
      • Re:Of Course (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kfg (145172) * on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:55AM (#15887807)
        In a fair legal system, an innocent man should not feel the need to pay a fee for something he didn't do.

        In England they bill people falsely imprisoned for their room and board. Commit a crime, get free room and board. Have the state commit a crime against you, get a bill for 100K pounds.

        Things actually could be worse here; and I'm sure they will be -- soon.

        KFG
        • Re:Of Course (Score:3, Informative)

          In England, don't they also pay you your expected salary if it turns out you were falsely imprisoned. Room and board sounds at least somewhat reasonable.
          • Re:Of Course (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kfg (145172) *
            Room and board sounds at least somewhat reasonable.

            And this is how it starts.

            KFG
          • Re:Of Course (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Sique (173459) on Friday August 11, 2006 @07:50AM (#15888058) Homepage
            You didn't order the room or the board. It was handed down to you with force. So why should you pay?
          • And what if the room and board fee is higher than what you would have othewise paid? What if you were unemployed, or had a McJob and were living with your parents or something?

            What if you owned a house? Is it reasonable for it to be foreclosed because you couldn't afford your mortgage and the prison room and board at the same time?

        • Re:Of Course (Score:5, Informative)

          by trewornan (608722) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:17AM (#15888152)
          It's true but bear in mind that this room and board is deducted from compensation payments and is part of the logic of how these awards are calculated, they don't get sent a bill. Not that I think it's right even so, but perhaps it's not quite as unreasonable as you make it sound.

          Further, in the UK it's normal practice for costs to be awarded against the losing party in a lawsuit. That's not all positive since even if you're careful about your costs an opponent with plentiful resources may spend hundreds of thousands on legal costs and if you lose (and you can never be sure in a lawsuit) you can end up liable. So this also acts as a deterrent to "the small guy", but perhaps less so than in the US?

          I suspect that the differences between the UK and US systems are the reason we haven't seem similar activity from the Recording Rights Association. Plus the UK legal system can turn quite nasty if they think you're playing games with them like the RIAA do in America. Try the same sort of thing here and a UK judge is quite likely to stamp on you.
        • it's not the states fault these wankers hired shoddy representation; the penal system is for criminals not the innocent! After these clowns finally get off the government dole what do they do, they sue for false imprisonment and lost wages that's what. If they're getting paid their normal wages having reasonable amounts of room and board deducted doesn't seem so bad now does it?

          Hell you want to know where people really get screwed it the US, get thrown in a US prison you're paid $0.28 an hour to work, medic
        • Yeah, but prisoners in the U.S. don't get salary compensation while they're falsely imprisoned, either. They don't charge you for room and board, but they DO kick your ass back out on the street again afterwards with an "Oops, sorry about that" and no money/no job.

          -Eric

      • Re:Of Course (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jimicus (737525) on Friday August 11, 2006 @07:02AM (#15887950)
        I don't think a court would call the lawsuits harassment.

        To someone who regularly deals with things legal - such as a lawyer or judge - a single lawsuit which is without merit is little more than a minor annoyance.

        To a single parent whose biggest "crime" to date has been to allow their child to use the Internet without understanding what their child was doing, being threatened with fines of $thousands is scary, and if it's done purely to generate publicity with little or no concern as to whether or not the parent is actually guilty, I'd say it is harrassment.

        And I bet you anything you like every single lawyer on the RIAA's payroll is well aware that facing a court of law is a terrifying idea for a layperson.
        • Terrifying (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:57AM (#15888335) Homepage

          I've always wondered what would happen if you saved yourself the money for attorneys' fees etc. by just showing up in court and telling your side of the story in 100% not-fancy language.

          Say you're the JMRI guy, being sued for patent infringement [chillingeffects.org]. If you were allowed to speak in plain English, the case would last 5 minutes and cost nothing:

          "Your honor, you can see that my software was released before their patent was even filed..."
          "Hmm, that seems about right. KAM is pretty-much owned and should pay $100,000 in punitive damages.

          I know; the team of lawyers buries you under a mountain of papers, discovery motions, etc. Why can't you say:

          "Your honor, they're burying me in discovery motions, etc. to intimidate me into settling. Please make them

          stop."

          And so on. Just wondering.

          • Don't know about elsewhere, but here in the UK, judges are appointed from the ranks of senior members of the legal profession.

            Birds of a feather and all that....
          • Re:Terrifying (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Pieroxy (222434)
            The real problem is (as I understand it) that just plain english is more often than not highly ambiguous. The specialized language is here to make sure everyone talks about the same thing. Of course, 90% of the population doesn't speak the language, so it is pretty much a shot in the water. But at least the lawyers and the judge know what they are talking about.
            • Re:Terrifying (Score:5, Insightful)

              by shilly (142940) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:41AM (#15889436)
              To the extent that the ambiguity of everyday English is an issue, it is primarily an issue for written arguments, not oral arguments. It's also less of an issue than people think -- see the work of the Plain English Campaign on legal jargon.

              Where a lawyer can be genuinely helpful is, surprise surprise, in understanding the law: precendents, statutes and the like. The question is not simply "what are the facts?", it is "what does the law have to say about the facts we've established?"
        • Parents are responsible for their kids, sucks but true. We had a kid that was a stuborn, rebelious, durnkard who like to destroy property while he trying to drink himself to death. Everything we tried failed so finaly we had him legaly emancipated at 15 years old; which made him responsible for his own actions. He's 35 now, still pissed about the emancipation, missing a kidney but otherwise starting to do pretty well. His son is starting to do a lot of the things his dad did at his age, funny how that works
      • I don't think a court would call the lawsuits harassment.

        Well, it is harassment in laymans terms. Not only has it never been proven that there is a single cent of loss from file sharing, but RIAA sue completely indiscriminately, including long dead people, 80-year old grandmothers that never owned a computer and so on. It's not a dispute of settlement, it's purely business: Protecting their outdated business models and laying a foundation for later suits. Each time someone pays up, they can state admission
      • Of course they pay up. Suppose you're a 100% innocent person who has never used a file sharing program (even for Linux ISOs). You don't have a wireless network and you're the only one who uses your connection. Now you get a threatening letter from the RIAA stating that you've been caught pirating the latest pop hits, so pay $3000 or you'll be sued. Try to talk to a lawyer and they all note that defending you is going to cost $5000+. Simple financial equation -- pay $3000 and be done with it, or pay $50
    • Re:Of Course (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KiloByte (825081)
      Too bad, the US federal law doesn't have any provisions against SLAPPs [wikipedia.org].
  • No Easy Way Out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AllParadox (979193) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:15AM (#15887730)
    If they had just looked at the case, and dismissed it when they realized it had no merit, they would have been fine. Dismiss much, much later, and the harassing nature shows through. No one but themselves to blame.
    • The reason they didn't is because all their suits are based on the same evidence: an IP address (which really has file-shared) and the name of the person who pays the account bill.

      This case means anyone who shares out their internet access has a defence. Hell, anyone with an insecure wireless net can presumably plead the fifth and walk away.

      Justin.
  • by nosferatu1001 (264446) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:22AM (#15887740)
    What effect will this have, if any, on the other RIAA cases currently going on?

    NOt living in the US, I'm not sure how the legal system entirely works in the States, but could this, assuming she wins her suit, have an enjoining effect on the RIAA in other cases that have brought with similar (lack of) evidence?

    Would be fantastic to see them crushed down.....!
  • Corporate Bullying (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lennart78 (515598) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:35AM (#15887767)
    The RIAA lawsuits indicate an underlying problem with this legal system. A lot of cases, not only regarding copyright infringement, are being settled out of court, because a defendent hasn't got the capabilities to fight back. Any company with sufficiently deep pockets could launch any bogus case, and leave any defendant powerless to react.

    For instance: How many people are presently incarcerated without having had a fair trial (not counting any Guantanamo Bay style prisoners of course, that's a different story).

    How many people have ponied up cash to SCO because of their outrageous claims about Linux IP? This sounds a lot like the bullyboy who takes your lunch money.

    Yhe RIAA can't honestly think they will stop filesharing because they will have to sue millions for this message to effectively be driven home to Joe User. And the few thousand quid they win on each case will barely cover the administrative and investigative costs they make, so there's a /very/ slim chance any artists will see a penny from that money. It's corporate bullying. Why won't US senators and pressure groups worry about that instead of a computer game (http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/11 /000227 [slashdot.org])?
    • For instance: How many people are presently incarcerated without having had a fair trial (not counting any Guantanamo Bay style prisoners of course, that's a different story).

      It's funny, I was actually thinking about the other side of the injustice that court settlements encourage: failure to fully prosecute people for crimes. With a settlment, especially a plea bargain, never get the satisfaction or the social benefit of the guilty being fully punished for their crimes.

      Worse yet, we lose the notion

      • by crosbie (446285) <crosbie@digitalproductions.co.uk> on Friday August 11, 2006 @07:46AM (#15888047) Homepage
        Yup: don't permit corporation to sue citizen, but permit corp vs corp and citizen vs citizen.

        If citizen wants to sue a corporation, they simply form their own corporattion and capitalise it with sufficient funds to litigate.

        NB This doesn't mean citizens get to break the windows of the corporate HQ with impunity (the corp reports them to the police), just that corporations can't force citizens to submit to the gross inequity of their litigation budget.

        The other thing to do, of course, is to abolish copyright.
    • How many people have ponied up cash to SCO because of their outrageous claims about Linux IP?

      AFAICT from a spot of searching, about four. And one of them regrets it [thewhir.com].
    • by Anonymous Coward
      To answer your question, "they don't dare." If they do anything at all to interfere with corporate power they get their "campaign contributions" cut off and can't get elected.

      The technical term for this relationship is "Fascism."

      Get used to it.

      BillyDoc
  • by Don_dumb (927108) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:39AM (#15887778)
    Didn't anyone else realise that to prevent an organisation bullying the defenceless, one must group together. Just like a Workers Union (in their original form), the only way to defend yourself is safety in numbers. Lets not forget that the RIAA is essentially a union for the already powerful music companies, they become more powerful by uniting.
    By uniting the elements opposed to them the RIAA loses some of its advantage, even more so by breaking the back of one of it's most pointy sticks, the dodgy litigation techniques, so far no one has had the knowledge or money to attack this but lets hope this is the beginning of an effective counter-attack.
    • one must group together. Just like a Workers Union (in their original form), the only way to defend yourself is safety in numbers. Lets not forget that the RIAA is essentially a union for the already powerful music companies

      Bingo! We need to form the MCAA - Media Consumer's Association of America, get Congress to insist on a levy on blank tapes and CDs and DVDs etc in order to to allow the members to participate in [rampant piracy] exercising their rights and be indemnified for all their legal costs!

  • by Wiseman1024 (993899) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:44AM (#15887790)
    If our "modern democracies" were modern and democratic, maffia organizations like RIAA, MPAA, and every country's respective digital terrorists should be illegal. Only those profiting from these pests want them to exist, but who cares for what's good for citizens, let alone what citizens want.
    • Remeber that people who run corporations get to vote too. Hell even the actual corporations get to vote by proxy with the propaganda they put out washing people's minds.
    • This is a general point beyond just your comment, but America is not a true democracy. We are a representative democracy, and for good reason - mob rule is no better than facism!
    • I don't think these organizations should be illegal, just reigned in a little bit (OK, a lot). The RIAA was actually started for a good reason -- to create standards for phonograph records. The "RIAA curve" was developed by engineers from different record companies so that 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records would have the best sound possible. All record companies created their albums according to this standard, thus ensuring any album from any label would have a consistent technical sound quality (of course, the

  • by TheNoxx (412624) on Friday August 11, 2006 @06:17AM (#15887849) Homepage Journal
    If you take a step back from the whole shebang, one can't help but be astounded at how badly the RIAA has screwed itself over in this particular situation. How do you take a situation where any other party would be completely and absolutely in the right if they said they didn't want you stealing their labor/product and turn nearly every sensible person aquainted with the matters at hand against you?
    It's like a rape victim taking the rapist to court and proving to be so vile and vicious as to turn the public in favor of the rapist (real mass pirates, not individuals, in terms of metaphor), and get pro bono law groups to back up the sonofabitch too! Astounding, I say. Well, that's what happens when you screw over everyone you come into contact with and try to crucify the innocent instead of behaving civilly about the matter and going after real pirating rings. Silly suits, instant gratification in greed and money will mean your doom... particularly when you have nothing to do with music itself, aside from litigating and controlling it for profit.

    I tell you what, if I were in charge of any company with a product line that could be easily pirated, I'd be suing the RIAA for making piracy more publicly acceptable through their corporate grotesqueries of lawsuits and such. I'm sure you could find a lawyer with a sharp enough tongue and wit to word it quite well.
    • But you have to admit, the RIAA's position on the issue paints them into a corner that practically forces them to act in this manner (not that I'm in any way sympathetic!). Think about it; if your legal argument is essentially that a 'culture of piracy' is making devaluing your work product through unlicenced non-fair use copying culturally acceptable to the point where Joe and Jane Citizen don't think much of it, and piracy itself is almost trivially easy despite attempts at copy protection, what option do

      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Friday August 11, 2006 @06:49AM (#15887917)
        RIAA probably smacked around for selective defense of their copyright.

        One does not lose copyright by failing to defend it (unlike trademarks); or "selectively" defending it. They might have a problem establishing damages if they were inconsistent, but again there are statutory damages for sopyright infringement.

      • "...and RIAA probably smacked around for selective defense of their copyright."

        IANAL, but I think that only applies to trademarks, not copyrights. Any lawyers in the house that could enlighten me?
        • It does only apply to trademarks, not copyrights, insofar as the ability to maintain its existence (i.e. if you fail substantially to defend a trademark, it ceases to exist as a legal protection.) But, if you fail to defend copyright, or selectively defend it, you have a serious problem when it comes time to identify damages; e.g. "if Jane Citizen is undertaking the same actions as me, then she is doing the same sort of damage as me; if you don't care about her damages, why do you care about mine?"
      • Then, they sue the aforementioned (and mostly fictitious) 'Pirate Kingpin'. If pirate kingpin's lawyer is not a moron, they will show cause to subpoena tons and tons of records of other 'pirates' that the RIAA have identified, and then ask pointedly why Jane Citizen wasn't sued.

        The RIAA would then say "because we didn't feel like it".

        And ten seconds later, case dismissed w/ prejudice, and RIAA probably smacked around for selective defense of their copyright.

        Are you making this up as you go along? Copyright
    • like a rape victim taking the rapist to court

      I find the comparison of someone accused of unauthorized file copying to a rapist to be rather disgusting. And to compare the RIAA to a rape victim is laughable. These aren't even criminal proceedings! It is a private dispute between a big bully and some poor ISP customer.

  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday August 11, 2006 @06:27AM (#15887873)
    Things were so much easier when we just used ducking stools and pointy sticks to decide innocence or guilt.
    One wonders if the law exists to keep lawyers rather than the other way around.
  • Secondary liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, 2006 @07:26AM (#15888007)
    When the RIAA learned that the person they sued was probably innocent, they switched their claim. They now claimed that she was liable because she owned the internet connection over which the infringement occured.

    So, I have a wife and two adult university students living at home. The RIAA asserts that I am responsible for their online activities. That means that I have to read all their posts and emails. I don't think so.

    The RIAA has already lost their case. What we are arguing about here is that they should pay the defendant's legal fees. What we need is for the court to decide that the RIAA's theory about secondary liability never had a basis in law and that their case is essentially frivolous.

    On Groklaw there has been some discussion of frivolous cases. There are punishments for lawyers who bring frivolous cases. If the RIAA's lawyers were sanctioned for cases like this, that would really make them think twice before going after the obviously innocent.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      So, I have a wife and two adult university students living at home. The RIAA asserts that I am responsible for their online activities. That means that I have to read all their posts and emails. I don't think so.

      Not only that, but you also have to make sure your wireless router is locked down with top-notch security, so your neighbors and wardrivers can't steal, either.

      -Eric

  • by MHDK (894720) on Friday August 11, 2006 @07:37AM (#15888029)
    This is a lot like the McLibel case in the UK. McDonalds were using the UK Libel laws to shut up various media outlets including the BBC and some newspapers by threatening to sue if they published information that painted McDonalds in a bad light. All these organisations decided to not publish or broadcast the information. Then a volunteer organisation wrote a pamphlet about the things that McDonalds do wrong, and got sued. Two of the members of that organisation refused to settle out of court, and decided to defend themselves against the million dollar lawyers that McDonalds hired to take them to court.

    What proceeded was the longest ever court case in British legal history and in the end the court agreed that indeed, McDonalds do, quote: "exploit children with their advertising, falsely advertise their food as nutritious, risk the health of their long-term regular customers, are "culpably responsible" for cruelty to animals reared for their products, are "strongly antipathetic" to unions and pay their workers low wages."

    From http://www.mcspotlight.org/case/trial/verdict/inde x.html [mcspotlight.org]

    So not only can uninformed consumers not make a good choice, but when people try to inform consumers of FACTS, money-laden corporations can shut them up most of the time. So on the whole, markets don't work properly in these cases because no consumer can be adequately informed about absolutely every product that some corrupt corporation is selling.

    Likewise with the RIAA Mafia, most people cannot afford to defend against them or have the money to inform the public of the other side of the story - i.e. how the damage that RIAA claims P2P causes is largely exagerrated.

    It's only the free market fundamentalists that think markets are sacrosanct, and "informed" consumers can defeat corrupt organisations through consumer power, despite the wealth and power of some of the players involved. Unfortunately, there appears to be rather a lot of those in America. No wonder the Middle East thinks America's corrupt.
    • I've said it once, I'll say it again:

      Americans spend $30 billion a year on lotto tickets.

      We could buy a record label every year with that kind of money.

      Why do we have to be "informed"? Someone start a website buysony.com and start soliciting donations. Turn donations into stocks held by all donors equally. Make it fun, have polls, but always encourage the continual donating of money to buy stocks, which you hold in a trust. Then you can all act as a single interest in Sony's stake.

      Eventually you can probabl
    • So not only can uninformed consumers not make a good choice, but when people try to inform consumers of FACTS, money-laden corporations can shut them up most of the time. So on the whole, markets don't work properly in these cases because no consumer can be adequately informed about absolutely every product that some corrupt corporation is selling.

      Perhaps the UK is more enlightened on this matter. But I notice that in the US, there's little that gets in the way of libeling corporations except technical

  • If this case is found in favor of Ms. Foster, Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization (RICO) charges and lawsuit should be filed against the RIAA.

    An interesting item, since I am into Japanese Anime, there is an interesting movie called Interstella 5555 [wikipedia.org] where a record executive kidnaps a rock group from another planet and then brings them to Earth and makes a lot of money off of them.
    • If this case is found in favor of Ms. Foster, Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization (RICO) charges and lawsuit should be filed against the RIAA.

      RICO is a criminal statute. In the U.S., prosecutorial power (the right to bring criminal indictments) is only granted to the government. In the U.K., private prosecutions are possible, but not here. To bring RICO charges against the RIAA, some attorney general somewhere would have to decide to do it. And since RICO is a federal statute, that means it woul

  • by elronxenu (117773) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:00AM (#15888090) Homepage

    Can they get Cravath, Swaine and Moore [cravath.com] to provide some input into the brief also? They've provided several wonderful briefs in the SCO vs IBM case. If anybody can present a watertight legal argument, CS&M can. I'm just a bit worried that the brief as it stands contains too much emotive language and spends too much time appealing to the judge's sense of "the greater good".

    IANAL, but IMHO judges don't care about "the greater good" unless it's a claim before them; I expect this judge will ignore all the emotive arguments and get right down to the question of whether it's legal to award attorneys' fees to the defendant, including whether the appropriate standard for awarding has been met.

    I also expect the judge to try very hard to make the narrowest possible ruling. Judges don't like setting precedents; the bigger the precedent, the less the judge likes it. This brief strikes right to the heart of the Adversary legal system, namely that poor defendants have little access to the courts and can be easily abused by rich plaintiffs. The judge will want to stay way clear of upsetting that status quo.

    • I expect this judge will ignore all the emotive arguments and get right down to the question of whether it's legal to award attorneys' fees to the defendant, including whether the appropriate standard for awarding has been met.

      FTFA "Awarding attorney's fees here would also further the policies of the Copyright Act by encouraging innocent defendants to fight against erroneous legal theories rather than settle. As the Court recognized in Fogerty, "a successful defense of a copyright infringement action" coul
  • RIAA Profits (Score:5, Informative)

    by Digital_Quartz (75366) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:02AM (#15888100) Homepage
    Wow. 18,000 people sued, settlements between $3K and $11K. That's over $100 million!
    • Subtract lawyer fees and whatever the costs of investigations to find the individual IP addresses in the first place and I doubt there is much profit in there (if any).

      $100 million sounds like a lot of cash, but if each case generates $3,000 to $11,000 then I can see the lawyers costs alone being more than that.
    • See? Bullying pays. Most settled, so the lawyer fees were far less than going to court. Out of $100 million, figure at least half of that was pure profit.

      Good work if you can get it. (And if you can live with yourself.)

    • Re:RIAA Profits (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MrNiceguy_KS (800771)
      My question is how much of that $100 million actually went to artists? You know - those people that the RIAA is claiming they are protecting by filing these lawsuits.
  • two points (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beaverfever (584714) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:30AM (#15888203) Homepage
    First, why do people in the US have to fight for legal fees when they win a lawsuit? When will it become an automatic part of american civil law? Responsibility for all legal fees when a case is lost will certainly put the brakes on the litigious culture of the US and all its frivolous lawsuits.

    Second: "Though the RIAA has the right to enforce its copyrights through lawsuits and settlements, it does not have the right to do so against people it knows or reasonably should know are innocent."

    The RIAA may be stupid, but that doesn't mean it is entirely wrong, and not all of its lawsuits are misdirected. Copyrights put paycheques in peoples' pockets, including software designers, game designers, graphic designers, and countless others.

    In a sense, the RIAA is going to bat for all these people, and that is a double-edged sword. Their idiotic approach to defending copyright has caused at least as much damage as it has prevented. They need feedback from people/industries with a vested interest, feedback other than "RIAA sucks!" or "Music should be free!", and they need to listen to that feedback.
    • Re:two points (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:58AM (#15888342)
      ''First, why do people in the US have to fight for legal fees when they win a lawsuit? When will it become an automatic part of american civil law? Responsibility for all legal fees when a case is lost will certainly put the brakes on the litigious culture of the US and all its frivolous lawsuits.''

      It works quite similar to that in German courts. First of all, the court decides how much money is argued about (if I say I want you to pay $1 mil, then we argue about $1 mil). Then he takes a chart, which says: For a one million dollar case, plaintiffs lawyers can charge $20000, defendant lawyers can charge $20000, court charges $20000 (actual numbers could be different). You can't stretch out a case infinitely because the judge won't let you create three years work for $20000. In the end, the court decides who was guilty and what has to be paid. Now say you wanted $1000000, and the judge says that you win, but the million dollar was nonsense, you get only 10000. Since I have to pay one percent of what you demanded, I also pay one percent of the court cost, one percent of your lawyer, one percent of my lawyer, and you pay the rest. Obviously people know that, so they don't try to get unreasonable amounts. If you win the case as a defendant, you pay nothing, but you might end up paying little even if you lose. And the lawyer cost is limited.
    • They're suing for the Rights Holders, which is a different beast- and they're suing people indescriminately
      left and right over this BS. No, I don't think that illicit file sharing (and there's a distinction there)
      is right and that "Music should be free!) but in the same breath, suing the customer is rarely a good thing
      especially when the person in question obviously didn't do what they're claiming. They're setting the
      financial bar high enough that people just "settle" out of court instead of defend themse
      • "They're suing for the Rights Holders, which is a different beast- and they're suing people indescriminately
        left and right over this BS."


        What different beast are you referring to? Rights holders? Do you mean people like me who create work independently, or do you mean the companies I have worked for who have paid me to create work? Those same companies provide income to accountants, janitors and secretaries... so those people were dependent on income derived from copyright and benefit from its protection ju
    • Re:two points (Score:4, Insightful)

      by micheas (231635) on Friday August 11, 2006 @09:37AM (#15888561) Homepage Journal
      why do people in the US have to fight for legal fees when they win a lawsuit? When will it become an automatic part of american civil law? Responsibility for all legal fees when a case is lost will certainly put the brakes on the litigious culture of the US and all its frivolous lawsuits

      The downside to your proposal, You do minor damage to my car,, say $200.00, I have an attorney on retainer, for my business, so I have my attoryne spend 200 hours procecuting the case ath $300/hr, so you owe me after I emerge victorious, $60,200. and I just saved myself two monts retainer, And no I won't use small claims because I cannot use my attorney there, and the whole point of the law suit is to exceed my retainer. (the actual damages are just incidental.

      Many people suspect that your proposal would lead to litigation that is aimed at reducing legal costs,

      • Re:two points (Score:3, Insightful)

        I always thought when people talk about "loser pays" it means "if someone file a suit and loses, they pay". So in your example, court costs would only be a risk to you, because you brought the suit rather than letting insurance handle it or the other guy just pay for your repairs. That puts the onus on the one filing the suit. Now there's arguments against that (who's going to sue a big company if they may lose as a result of some idiot jury/judge and owe millions of dollars?), but that's a whole other can
  • Recently, when I appeared in court in Warner v. Does 1-149 [blogspot.com] in Manhattan, Judge Owen said, in words or substance, "so they want to find out this person's name and address so they can take his deposition, what's wrong that?" I responded, in words or substance, "No, judge, that's not what they're going to do. They don't want to take this person's deposition. They are going to sue these people, bring lawsuits that wreck people's lives." The judge then said to me "what are you talking about, wreck people's lives?" I proceeded to tell him how these lawsuits affect the poor people that are targeted, and he cut me off, did not allow me to finish, and said that because I used the term "wreck people's lives" he wouldn't believe anything further I could say.

    It was therefore quite gratifying to me personally to read the following passage in the amicus brief:

    This is an important case. While it may appear to many as just one woman defending herself against several large corporate copyright plaintiffs, as the court is undoubtedly aware, this lawsuit is but one battle in the broader war the RIAA is waging against unauthorized internet copying. As a result of this war, the RIAA has wrought havoc on the lives of many innocent Americans who, like Deborah Foster, have been wrongfully prosecuted for illegal acts they did not commit for over a year despite their clear innocence and persistent denials. Using questionable methods and suspect evidence, the RIAA has targeted thousands of ordinary people around the country, including grandmothers, grandfathers, single mothers, and teenagers. In its broad dragnet of litigation, the RIAA has knowingly entangled the innocent along with the guilty, dragging them through an expensive and emotionally draining process of trying to clear their names.
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NOsPAm.optonline.net> on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:54AM (#15888311) Journal

    From the motion:

    In deciding whether or not to grant defendant Deborah Foster's Motion For Attorneys Fees, the court should consider the broader context of the RIAA lawsuit campaign--especially the positive effect that a fee award would have on encouraging the RIAA to be more diligent in conducting its pre-suit investigations, more prompt in dismissing suits when a defendant asserts substantial claims of innocence or mistaken identity, and more responsible in asserting its legal theories. Moreover, a fee award would encourage innocent accused infringers to stand up and fight back against bogus RIAA claims, deter the RIAA from continuing to prosecute meritless suits that harass defendants it knows or reasonably should know are innocent, and further the purposes of the Copyright Act by reaffirming the appropriate limits of a copyright owner's exclusive rights.

    And inevitably, that would be the fatsest way to deal the **AA a blow -- if everyone sued wrongfuly joind together in a class action civil suit and sued them for an outrageous amount of money. They wouldn't get the outrageous amount of money, but the trouble with this whole process has been that there's really no mainstream publicity of the matter. A class action suit might change that. Of course if you really wanted to stick it to the **AA, sic NY Atty General Spitzer on them.

  • Copyrights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argoff (142580) * on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:24AM (#15889300)
    IMHO, they need to treat copyrights like sewage that leaves no room for free speech in the information age, rather than some honorable law that just needs clear boundaries set. The RIAA understands this is an all or nothing game and they are acting off that understanding, and so should we. We never got rid of the 55 speed limit by proclaiming that it was an honorable law that just needed better boundaries set, no we got rid of it because millions of people treated it like the worthless burden that it was eventually forcing the system to change.

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