J.K. Rowling didn't make enough money on Harry Potter, so she had to make sure that the 'Harry Potter Lexicon' was shut down. After a trial in Manhattan in Warner Bros. v. RDR Books, she won, getting the judge to agree with her (and her friends at Warner Bros. Entertainment) that the 'Lexicon' did not qualify for fair use protection. In a 68-page decision (PDF) the judge concluded that the Lexicon did a little too much 'verbatim copying', competed with Ms. Rowling's planned encyclopedia, and might compete with her exploitation of songs and poems from the Harry Potter books, although she never made any such claim in presenting her evidence. The judge awarded her $6750, and granted her an injunction that would prevent the 'Lexicon' from seeing the light of day.
An anonymous University of Michigan student targeted by the RIAA as a 'John Doe', is asking for the RIAA's investigator, Safenet (formerly MediaSentry), to be prosecuted criminally for a pattern of felonies in Michigan. Known to Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth -- the agency regulating private investigators in that state -- only as 'Case Number 162983070', the student has pointed out that the law has been clear in Michigan for years that computer forensics activities of the type practiced by Safenet require an investigator's license. This follows the submissions by other 'John Does' establishing that Safenet's changing and inconsistent excuses fail to justify its conduct, and that Michigan's legislature and governor have backed the agency's position that an investigator's license was required.
Well, I was afforded the opportunity to write for a slightly different audience -- the judges who belong to the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. I was invited by the The Judges' Journal, their quarterly publication, to do a piece on the RIAA litigations for the ABA's Summer, 2008, 'Equal Access to Justice' issue. What I came up with was 'Large Recording Companies vs. The Defenseless : Some Common Sense Solutions to the Challenges of the RIAA Litigations', in which I describe the unfairness of these cases and make 15 suggestions as to how the courts could make it a more level playing field. I'm hoping the judges mod my article '+5 Insightful', but I'd settle for '+3 Informative'. For the actual article go here (PDF). (If anyone out there can send me a decent HTML version of it, I'll run that one up the flagpole as well.)
Tiffany's has lost its bid to hold eBay liable for trademark infringement of Tiffany's brands taking place on eBay. After a lengthy bench trial (i.e. a trial where the judge, rather than the jury, decides the factual questions), Judge Richard J. Sullivan has issued a 66-page decision (PDF) carefully analyzing the facts and legal principles, ultimately concluding that 'it is the trademark owner's burden to police its mark, and companies like eBay cannot be held liable for trademark infringement based solely on their generalized knowledge that trademark infringement might be occurring on their websites'.
According to commentator Therese Polletti at Dow Jones MarketWatch, "the RIAA's tactics are nearly as bad as the actions of mobsters, real or fictional. The analogy comes up easily and frequently in any discussion of the RIAA's maneuvers." Among other things she cites the extortionate nature of their 'settlement negotiations' pointed out by Prof. Bob Talbot of the University of San Francisco School of Law IP Law Clinic, whose student attorneys are helping private practitioners fight the RIAA, the illegality of the RIAA's use of unlicensed investigators, the flawed evidence it uses, and the fact that the RIAA thinks nothing of jeopardizing a student's college education in order to make their point, as support for the MAFIAA/Mafia analogy.
Recommended reading for all interested in the RIAA's litigation war against p2p file sharing is the amended class action complaint just filed in Oregon in Andersen v. Atlantic. This landmark 109-page document (pdf) tells both the general story of the RIAA's campaign against ordinary folks, and the specific story of its harassment of Tanya Andersen, and even of her young daughter. The complaint includes federal and state RICO claims, as well as other legal theories, and alleges that "The world's four major recording studios had devised an illegal enterprise intent on maintaining their virtually complete monopoly over the distribution of recorded music." The point has been made by one commentator that the RIAA won't be able to weasel its out of this one by simply withdrawing it; this one, they will have to answer for. If the relief requested in the complaint is granted, the RIAA's entire campaign will be shut down for good.
Although based in San Francisco, and only an amicus curiae in the Phoenix, Arizona, case of Atlantic v. Howell, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is sending its senior intellectual property lawyer Fred Von Lohmann to Phoenix to argue the Howell case, on behalf of the defendant, who is not represented by counsel. Due to the RIAA's attempt to take advantage of Mr. Howell's being undefended to try to convince the judge that merely 'making files available for distribution' -- i.e., just having them on one's computer in a manner that is accessible to sharing -- and that copying files from one's cd onto one's computer in mp3 format is itself "unlawful", EFF filed an amicus brief in January. Now it's taking the unusual step of actually sending someone to the courthouse to orally argue the motion.
A technology battle is raging in UMG v. Lindor in Brooklyn over whether the RIAA's investigator, SafeNet (formerly known as MediaSentry), which has produced certain *txt printouts, now needs to disclose its digital files, validation methodology, testing procedures, failure rates, software manuals, protocols, packet logs, source code, and other materials, so that the validity of its methods can be evaluated by the other side. SafeNet and the RIAA say no, the information is "proprietary and confidential". Ms. Lindor says yes, if you're going to testify in federal court the other side has a right to test your evidence. A list of what is being sought is here (pdf). MediaSentry has produced 'none of the above'. "Put up or shut up" says one commentator to MediaSentry. What do you say?
A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected the RIAA's "making available" theory, which is the basis of all of the RIAA's peer to peer file sharing cases. In Atlantic v. Brennan, in a 9-page opinion (pdf), Judge Janet Bond Arterton held that the RIAA needs to prove "actual distribution of copies", and cannot rely -- as it was permitted to do in Capitol v. Thomas -- upon the mere fact that there are song files on the defendant's computer and that they were "available". This is the same issue that has been the subject of extensive briefing in two contested cases in New York, Elektra v. Barker and Warner v. Cassin. Judge Arterton also held that the defendant had other possible defenses, such as the unconstitutionality of the RIAA's damages theory and possible copyright misuse flowing from the record companies' anticompetitive behavior.
"A student law clinic is about to cause a revolution" says p2pnet. For the first time in the history of the RIAA's ex parte litigation campaign against college students, a university law school's legal aid clinic has taken up the fight against the RIAA in defense of the university's college students. Student attorneys at the University of Maine School of Law's Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, under the supervision of law school prof Deirdre M. Smith, have moved to dismiss the RIAA's complaint in a Portland, Maine, case, Arista v. Does 1-27, on behalf of 2 University of Maine undergrads. Their recently filed reply brief (pdf) points to the US Supreme Court decision in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, and the subsequent California decision following Twombly, Interscope v. Rodriguez, which dismissed the RIAA's "making available" complaint as mere "conclusory", "boilerplate" "speculation". The 2 students represented by Cumberland join the 8 students represented by a prominent Portland law firm, bringing to 10 the number of University of Maine students fighting back in this case.
The RIAA is apparently having an allergic reaction to the request by the State Attorney General of Oregon for information about the RIAA's investigative tactics, in Arista v. Does 1-17, the Portland, Oregon, case targeting students at the University of Oregon. See The Oregonian, December 1, 2007 ("UO suspects music industry of spying") and p2pnet, November 29, 2007 ("RIAA may be spying on students: Oregon AG"). Not only are the record companies opposing the request (pdf), they're asking the Judge not to even read it. (pdf) Commentary: "RIAA scorns Oregon University request".
The RIAA's latest anti-college round of "early settlement" letters targets 7 out of 8 Ivy League schools, but continues to give Harvard University a wide berth. This is perhaps the most astonishing display of cowardice exhibited to date by the multinational cartel of SONY BMG, Warner Bros. Records, EMI, and Vivendi/Universal (the "Big Four" record companies, which are rapidly become less "big"). The lesson which other colleges and universities should draw from this latest of many acts of cowardice: "All bullies are cowards. Appeasement of bullies doesn't work. Standing up to bullies and fighting back has a much higher success rate."
Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, has found the key to getting the RIAA to stop inundating it and its students with "settlement" letters. According to the university's student online publication, the university paid $60,000, plus $16,000 per year "maintenance", to Audible Magic, the business partner of the RIAA's all-purpose expert witness Dr. Doug Jacobson, for its "CopySense" filtering software. Once it made the payments, the letters stopped. This of course raises a lot of questions as to the 'disinterestedness' of Dr. Jacobson, whose deposition in the UMG v. Lindor case was the subject of interesting Slashdot commentary.
Judge David G. Larimer, presiding in Rochester, New York, has denied an RIAA application for default judgment on the ground that the RIAA's evidence was insufficient, in that it contained no details of actual downloads or distributions, and no sufficient evidence that defendant was in fact Kazaa user "heavyjeffmc@KaZaA". The decision (pdf) concluded that "there are significant issues of fact regarding the identification of the defendant from his alleged "online media distribution system" username". (In case you're unfamiliar with the term "online media distribution system", that's because it is a term the RIAA coined 4 years ago to describe p2p file sharing accounts in its lawsuits; the term is not known to have been used by anyone else anywhere else.) In August a similar RIAA default judgment motion was denied on the ground that the pleadings failed to allege sufficient factual details supporting a claim of copyright infringement, in a San Diego, California, case, Interscope v. Rodriguez.
The Slashdot and Groklaw communities were so helpful in preparing for the deposition of the RIAA's "expert" witness, Dr. Doug Jacobson, we thought we'd come back and ask for your thoughts on what documents and/or data to request from the RIAA's 'investigator', MediaSentry, Inc. The documents we have so far are just printouts, which were used at Dr. Jacobson's deposition, specifically exhibits 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14. Of course we have some ideas of our own about what to demand, but we want to leave no stone unturned. For the technical minded among you, this is your chance to be a part of bringing the RIAA's litigation campaign down.