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The RIAA vs. John Doe, a Layperson's Guide 78

Grant Robertson writes to tell us that he has made a pass at translating a recent guide to surviving an RIAA lawsuit from technical lawyer-speak into a much more easy to understand layperson's guide. The law, being complex and sometimes cryptic, allows ways for the RIAA to tilt the odds in their favor forcing unsuspecting victims to settle rather than fight. Take a look at Ray Beckerman's tips to survival translated into words anyone can benefit from.
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The RIAA vs. John Doe, a Layperson's Guide

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  • More such as this. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcai8rw2 ( 923718 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @06:22AM (#15864677) Homepage
    I wish there were more 'guides' like this. Usually the corporations hide the true meaning of their T's & C's behind so much confusing babble that the end user usually has zero idea of what is actually going to happen to them in certain scenarios.

    Its like contracts...I read them. Over and Over again...it doesn;t mean I understand what they mean. We all need pet solicitors.
    • by Agent00Wang ( 146185 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @06:54AM (#15864717) Homepage
      The confusing babble is part of the reason why we have lawyers. Nearly everything can be argued in court and lawyers just make more (paid) work for themselves by having the T&C be confusing in the first place.
      • The confusing babble is part of the reason why we have lawyers.
        The lawyers is part of the reason why we have confusing babble.

        There... fixed it for ya.

        • Dismissing it all as "babble" may sound like fun, but it's babble that affects people's lives, so we should all try to understand it. And I think reading the judges' "babble" -- rather than reading others babbling on about it -- is the best way to understand what is really going on.

          In this particular area, sophisticated tech people who read the judges' decisions are immediately aware that the judges don't know what they're talking about, and that the RIAA lawyers are deliberately trying to play on that an

      • by Anonymous Coward
        1. Procure weapon (handgun, knife or Baseball bat)
        2. Kill RIAA Lawyer
        3. Argue that it wasn't homocide as lawyers aren't human anyways
        4. Spend 10-20 years with free room and board.
      • ...that we have programmers. Writing and interpreting the confusing babble -- except it's babble makes the computers useful, instead of the law useful.

        I've often thought programmers and lawyers have similar jobs.
    • It's a nice guide to what happens if the RIAA sue you. Unfortunately it doesn't give much more insight into what to do about it other than getting an experienced lawyer(duh!).
      • It is also a clear explanation of why RIAA legal tactics are grossly unfair, awill hopefully draw some attention to this fact. Do you honestly believe the target audience of this is just the couple of people who get sued?
      • Unfortunately, there really aren't any good options.

        1. Pay an extortionate settlement.
        2. Represent yourself which is hard and stressful and not the best way to defend a case.
        3. Pay lots of money to a lawyer and pray you might get some of your attorneys fees back at the end.

        Normal options, like reasoning with the other side and getting them to go away, or to take a reasonable settlement, don't work here.

        I was hoping to be able to knock out the cases at the John Doe stage, but the 3 motions we made in

  • by Anonymous Coward
    He's always in the shit with John Law.

    I hope they sue his ass off.
  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:02AM (#15864731) Homepage
    There are some minor errors in it, and I'm busy right now, but hopefully I can go through line by line and post about them this evening.

    Still the main piece of advice he gives -- immediately get a lawyer who knows what he's doing with regard to these sorts of cases -- is good advice. Waiting too long, or going without one for a while can irrevocably screw up your defense if you don't do the right things, in the right order, at the right times.
    • Still the main piece of advice he gives -- immediately get a lawyer who knows what he's doing with regard to these sorts of cases -- is good advice. Waiting too long, or going without one for a while can irrevocably screw up your defense if you don't do the right things, in the right order, at the right times.

      Now, you seem to know more about legal stuff than I, but are there many lawyers who would have had experience in John Doe suits with no evidence which are being filed in a state the person isn't even a

      • Now, you seem to know more about legal stuff than I, but are there many lawyers who would have had experience in John Doe suits with no evidence which are being filed in a state the person isn't even a resident of?

        Maybe not but at the very least the lawyer will be very familiar with things like filing dates and court proceedings so you at least can make sure the administrivia are taken care of properly (some judges look very unkindly on people who don't get their paperwork right and at least the lawyer ca

    • Here's an even better idea. Contribute to a legal defense fund that will stand up for John Doe whenever the RIAA begins a suit.

      The only easy place to quash this tactic is to stop the suit against John Doe. But, since they drop that suit as soon as they have your ISP billing info, it's all over.

      I really like the summary judgement idea. You force the lawyers to produce filenames, IP addresses, dates, times, and ISP connection records.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Shame someone with a few spare dollars couldn't get this sent to most of the judges throughout the US. Maybe one or two of them will realise how the RIAA is playing with them in order to get what they want !

  • by Don_dumb ( 927108 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:22AM (#15864780)
    I read TFA and still didn't understand parts of it, despite that it is well written.

    However, I would be grateful to know how this compares with the RIAA's attempts in other nations, especially here in the UK. TFA did allude to Canada and The Netherlands but only a mention. Some of the tactics outlined did seem to be only possible in the US (in particular the limitations of state laws)
    • Basically, in Canada, the judges tell the RIAA that they have to have a damn good reason before we're going to order the ISPs to release John Doe's information.
      • That's right,digitrev. In Canada and the Netherlands they recognized that the RIAA's "investigation" was fake and felt the evidence wasn't sufficient to warrant giving out confidential information.

        In the U.S. they seem to have rubberstamped the RIAA tactics.

        Although I wonder if there's some judge out there who laughed them out of court.... but hasn't been heard from because the case was ex parte.

    • I think in some countries in the EU (if not all) if you lose a court battle you have to pay the defendant's fees. So the tactics the RIAA used really wouldn't bode well for them. Imagine if they sued, racked up thousands of dollars in legal fees then tried to drop the case once they couldn't win. They'd have to reimburse the defendant. If only the US had a court system like that..it'd make civil suits less frequent.
      • IANAL, but I think that:

        Here in Denmark they will have to pay everyones expenses, even the Courts, if and only if the Court rules that the suit was baseless.

      • That is interesting. I am suprised that the US doesn't have this device to reimburse the fees of the winning defendant, that seems like legal bullying "come on, defend yourself, at your cost", surely that means that an organisation has nothing to lose by suing anyone/everyone, especially as TFA did point out that less is needed to prosecute in a civil case.

        That really stinks.
        • Under the Copyright Act, the prevailing party may be awarded attorneys fees. In Capitol Records v. Foster, the defendant has made a motion [blogspot.com] for her attorneys fees.
          • Thanks for the further information. It just seems fair to prevent someone from being punished for being in the right.
            Can I just ask, this only applies to cases that relate to the Copyright Act? So people can still be sued and have to pay their own fees to prove, they haven't done anything wrong and yet have to pay massive legal fees, if the case is not about copyright?

            Bye the way, we do attack and make many jokes at lawyers, but I at least do understand that lawyers are supposed to be there to defend the r
            • In America, the "American rule" prevails, which is that each party normally bears their own attorneys fees. The exceptions are (a) a statute which provides otherwise, and (b) a contract which provides otherwise. The Copyright Act constitutes such an exception.
    • Did you read the original article by Ray Beckerman (linked in the FA) [riaalawsuits.us]? I thought it was pretty straightforward and very easy to understand. (IANAL or anything close). Grant Robertson just sort of stretched it out and threw a lot of examples in there, and made it harder to follow in my mind.
  • by Clovert Agent ( 87154 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:26AM (#15864792)
    Great piece, but it's far from a guide to survival. It's a translation into Laymanese of how you're going to be screwed by the RIAA's gaming of the legal system.

    1) You're going to lose a motion and not be told how or why
    2) You're going to be sent legal documents but will not be able to get a lawyer to defend you because the lawyer won't have the information he needs
    3) You're going to have your information handed over to the RIAA and there's nothing you can do
    4) You're going to land in a civil case and the precendents are murky enough that you may well lose, but it's certainly going to cost you a bundle anyway

    What I'd like to see is a real survival guide on the back of this. For example, when you get the notice that you've lost that first motion, what should you do? What can your lawyer do to get up to speed and file a motion to dismiss in time? What can you present to the judge to show that the case, on the evidence to hand, is baseless?

    Good article, and a great starting point, but it'd be so much more useful with some real advice rather than just being a well-written explanation of exactly how screwed you are.

    • It is all in the blog entry my friend. Your best course of action is to get a lawyer with two qualities:
      1. FAST !!!!
      2. Knows about the RIAA tactics.
      • It is all in the blog entry my friend. Your best course of action is to get a lawyer with two qualities:
        1. FAST !!!!
        2. Knows about the RIAA tactics.

        Great. Now explain how to find such a lawyer.
        • Great. Now explain how to find such a lawyer.

          Let's see... Well, in the blog you can find the name of two people that got out of their lawsuit. I am sure that 5 minutes alone with Google will allow you to find the name of their lawyers...

          That said, 'please' would have been welcome ;)
          • Let's see... Well, in the blog you can find the name of two people that got out of their lawsuit. I am sure that 5 minutes alone with Google will allow you to find the name of their lawyers...
            That said, 'please' would have been welcome ;)

            That would be great, if they lived (and were licensed to practice) in my state. I'm kind of thinking along the lines of something useful to people that live in the other 48 states. More than 2 lawyers would be required for that I would imagine.

    • I would like to suggest that somone build and maintain a list of lawyers in each state with the knowledge (and experience) to tackle RIAA. Then anybody who needs a lawyer can quickly find one -- that would be good survival advice!

      I'm not in the Netherlands, I'm in Denmark (is there something rotten here?) so the survival advice is probable a bit different. However, I still might need a lawyer with relevant knowledge, so perhaps have countries as well as states in the list? Still, I would like to see a clear
    • it's far from a guide to survival. It's a translation into Laymanese of how you're going to be screwed by the RIAA's gaming of the legal system

      I tend to a somewhat different take on things:

      1 The RIAA only has to show that is more reasonable than not to believe that you downloading without a purchase or uploading without a license to distribute.

      2 The chances are pretty damn good that you or someone in your household has been making heavy use of BT and the P2P nets. It's your account and your responsibil

      • 1 is completely wrong. Under no interpetation of copyright law can they bring a lawsuit against you for illegal downloading. None at all.

        Your confusion is understandable, however, as every single news story gets this wrong, talking about 'p2p downloaders', when, even if it was demonstrated that they were downloaders, that wouldn't be the slightest bit illegal. It's akin to calling muggers 'pants owners'...almost all muggers do, indeed, own a pair of pants, and even use it during the commision of a crime, b

        • If they were actually trying to fight piracy, they'd be going after the XXXREDACTEDXXX posters, which would be, incidentally, infinitely easier to fight in court

          Shut up, man! Don't give them any ideas! That is the only avenue by which I can (without fear of ridicule) listen to such classics as "Popozao".

          • It is rather surreal, isn't it?

            People ask me where to get music online, and I have no idea what the current p2p thing is. They ask where I got my music from, and usually don't believe me that XXXREDACTEDXXX even exists until I show them.

        • Under no interpetation of copyright law can they bring a lawsuit against you for illegal downloading. None at all.

          August 8th. This AP story just in: Family owes $4,080 for music download-- Oregonians say they didn't know practice was illegal [nwsource.com]

          KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- Leslie Maxfield has got a case of the downloading blues.834 rock and country songs. With a Saturday deadline approaching, Maxfield has yet to pay the settlement, and he's not sure if he can. "I've got about a week and they'll be wanting their

  • by MrSquirrel ( 976630 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @09:02AM (#15865193)
    My RIAA survival guide: 1. Go to the RIAA headquarters 2. Use fire... and lots of it 3. Sip drinks with those little umbrellas in them on a beach
  • I still want to know how illegal it would be for me to run a Kazaa client with a bunch of word documents renamed as MP3s to try to get the RIAA to sue me.
    • Re:RIAA Honeypot (Score:3, Informative)

      by pete6677 ( 681676 )
      It wouldn't be illegal at all, but you would get the privilege of paying thousands of dollars to defend yourself. And no you wouldn't be able to sue for attorney fees since you set up the files for the purpose of baiting a lawsuit.
      • Re:RIAA Honeypot (Score:4, Interesting)

        by grimwell ( 141031 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:39PM (#15867259)
        Maybe he was just trying to help the RIAA by poluting the P2P network with bogus files? Maybe he is just trying to determine how the RIAA gathers their info? He can't help it if the RIAA didn't believe him when he told them he wasn't "making available" any copyrighted material belonging to their members.

        I am curious about the "baiting a lawsuit" bit. Could you point me to some law and/or cases(USA based)? I think a RIAA Honeypot could be an interesting. A network of them passing files around would be even more interesting.

        If the copyright on the file the RIAA downloads belongs to another, are they now infriging that copyright and can the copyright owner sue them?

        • All well and good, but try getting a judge and jury to believe any of these arguments. Nobody would feel sorry for this guy, hence no damages for attorney fees. Yes, that's the way it really works. Technicalities and legal hairsplitting don't always hold up.
          • Nobody would feel sorry for this guy, hence no damages for attorney fees. Yes, that's the way it really works. Technicalities and legal hairsplitting don't always hold up.

            So, you're just talking out of your ass then? No actual law or case examples that you can point me to?

            Thanks for the help.
          • All well and good, but try getting a judge and jury to believe any of these arguments.

            How about a preemptive strike? Send a letter via registered mail to the attorney of record for the RIAA explaining what you are doing before you actually start doing it. Something along the lines of "I am researching P2P behavior & traffic and I am using bogus files with file titles of popular songs."

            Months later if/when the RIAA brings a lawsuit against you, send them an affidavit via registered mail reminding them
            • Wow, aren't you a genius. That will fix everything. No need to worry about a lawsuit in that case. God, you crack me up. I'd like to see you inside a courtroom. You would lose the case faster than the judge could say "heresay". Go ahead, amateur lawyer boy, do your little experiment. Come back to Slashdot and let us know how it went. Be sure to include the amount from your attorney bills, or if you act as your own attorney, the amount of the damages the RIAA was awarded against you.
              • Thanks for the continuing help. Do you have anything positive and/or constructive to add?

                Maybe you could enlighten me on how letters sent to the RIAA explaining one's actions and intents would be dismissed as "heresay"?

                hersay [thefreedictionary.com] n. 1) second-hand evidence in which the witness is not telling what he/she knows personally, but what others have said to him/her. 2) a common objection made by the opposing lawyer to testimony, when it appears the witness has violated the hearsay rule. 3) scuttlebutt or gossip.

                No nee
              • In case you missed it... You might want to read this Amicus Brief [blogspot.com] filed by the EFF, ACLU, American Association of Law Libraries, Public Citizen, ACLU of Oklahoma in support of awarding attorney fees to a wrongly accused person of copyright infrigment by the RIAA.

                From the brief "Where, as here, one of these innocent defendants prevails in clearing her name and the plaintiff knew or should have known that she was innocent but continued to harass the defendant, the court should award attorney's fees to compens
        • Any lawers want to help us out? Pro bono? Could be kinda fun!
    • Make it interesting. Put a copyright notice prohibiting the RIAA, MPAA, and their agents from reading these documents at the beginning of the document. Make the documents themselves critiques of the song whose title is the title of the document. If the RIAA sues you, you reveal the contents of the documents. Either the RIAA sued you without even opening the documents, which would be extremely bad publicity for them; or they read the documents and violated your copyright and you can countersue.
  • Rumsfeld vs. Sagan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shani ( 1674 ) <shane@time-travellers.org> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @10:30AM (#15865845) Homepage
    In TFA: As Rumsfeld put it, "absence of proof is not proof of absence."

    Sad that Rumsfeld is getting credit for it, when the idea actually comes from the original BHA [wikipedia.org], Carl Sagan:


    http://www.fatemag.com/wordpress/?p=103 [fatemag.com]

  • Dissemination! (Score:3, Informative)

    by scottsk ( 781208 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:04PM (#15866851) Homepage
    There's a LOT of misinformation about what the RIAA is suing people for. I wish the article had said it more forcefully, but it did make the point that the RIAA is suing people who disseminated their members' songs illegally. (I.e. "to scatter far and wide; spread abroad, as if sowing; promulgate widely".) They're not suing you for downloading songs, they're suing you for sharing their songs illegally by being a distributor of copyrighted material. They know which IP address shared the songs on the P2P network at what time (do you know what your IP address was a year ago? last month? right now?) because that's public information on most P2P networks. Note that the RIAA can't bait you, by disseminating their own songs on P2P networks and letting you download them, because they'd be giving away their own songs and it wouldn't be a crime then. If you're sued, about all you can do is prove it wasn't you who committed the crime. The IP address wasn't yours at the time (most ISPs don't keep logs as I understand), or that your IP address was pirated by a hijacker who used it. I do not think anyone has ever successfully proved it wasn't them -- most of these cases are thrown out on technicalities and not on the actual issues. Is what the RIAA is doing -- asking ISPs to turn over who had which IP addresses at what time -- legal? I don't think this has ever been decided (in the USA). Hard to say this should happen, because it's just a civil suit by an entity that isn't in law enforcement. If it was a law enforcement agency getting this data for an actual criminal case, that would be different... The burden of proof is on the RIAA, but if they have the ISP say an IP address allocated to John Doe who is paying the bill for Internet access did the P2P disseminating, it's hard to see how that could be proven any more solidly. Great lesson for civics teachers to bring to class!
    • We recently served some followup interrogatories [blogspot.com] in UMG v. Lindor, in Brooklyn federal court, trying to get to the bottom of the RIAA's evasiveness.

      • The link says -- "...the 'evidentiary basis' for their allegation of copyright infringement, she received only a vague response." It is extremely important to clarify this! Just what are people being charged with by the RIAA? The mass media has consistently ignored this issue and said, in essence, people are being charged with downloading copyrighted material.

        Can't be right -- for several reasons.

        I'm not sure downloading copyrighted music is actually a crime. Is it?

        The RIAA has to be charging peop

        • 1. The complaint charges them with "downloading, distributing, and/or making available for distribution". In fact the RIAA has no evidence at all of downloading or distributing when they commence the case.

          2. I am not aware of any criminal cases. The cases I am aware of are all civil cases, for money damages and an injunction.

          3. There is huge potential for mistakes. Their investigation is bogus, and they have no idea when they sue someone if that person has committed any act of copyright infringement whats

  • The best way to stop an RIAA lawsuit in its tracks is to get a lawyer in the ISP's home state to file a motion to dismiss the suit, right? So it'd be really useful if there were a directory online of lawyers who can do that for each state.

    It strikes me as easy money all around. The lawyers would make a couple of hundred bucks a pop for basically filling out some paperwork, whoever runs the web directory would get part of that from the lawyers and the poor schmuck who's being sued would end up paying a co

  • Personally, I think (a) the people at Slashdot are a pretty intelligent lot, and (b) the best things for them to read are not what a commentator has to say, but the actual court records.

    I have seen some spirited, high-level debates in these pages where people cite to different parts of different litigation documents.

    That is why my site is the way it is; it is information, not entertainment. The key elements are (a) the index of litigation documents; (b) the directory of lawyers who are fighting the RIAA; and (c) the posts highlighting significant level events. The post, How the RIAA Litigation Process Works [riaalawsuits.us], which Grant Robertson describes as being as 'dry as a bread sandwich', is merely intended to be an accurate summary of what is going on out there, not a substitute for informing onesself and forming one's own opinions. (I hope punkr0x is right, that it is not quite as poorly written as Grant makes it out to be.).

    My site is intended to serve the following readers: (a) people who are being targeted by the RIAA; (b) lawyers who are representing or would like to represent these folks; (c) journalists looking for primary rather than secondary sources; and (d) other intelligent people, lawyers and nonlawyers alike, who want to understand what is happening here, and who don't need to be told what to think.

    I think the 'laymen' at Slashdot are pretty good readers.

  • What if you were to just wag your ass at the extortion demand of the RIAA, allow yourself to get sued, and do the jail time? How much jail time might be given to someone who fully refused to cooperate with both the "justice" system, and the RIAA?

    A question for the uber-cool and helpful NY Country Lawyer: Would you think you might get Allenwood or some other minimum security prison? Or would I be doin the Tango with some crosseyed murderer in a supermax (living one cell over from the Deadhead who got caught

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