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Interview Lawyers Who Defend Against RIAA Suits 289

Attorneys Ty Rogers and Ray Beckerman maintain a blog called Recording Industry vs The People, subtitled, "A blog devoted to the RIAA's lawsuits of intimidation brought against ordinary working people," which was most recently linked from Slashdot on Sept. 10. They've agreed to answer your questions about RIAA suits -- and they obviously will not preface their answers with "IANAL," although we must note that they cannot give specific legal advice about specific cases. For that you need to engage an attorney yourself. (Luckily, their site contains a directory of lawyers willing to defend against RIAA suits.) In any case, these guys obviously know more than the average bear (or lawyer) about how the RIAA goes about suing music fans, how to keep from getting sued by the RIAA, and how to fight back if you do get sued, so we're glad they're willing to help us learn more about this apparently endless legal mess. Usual Slashdot interview rules apply.
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Interview Lawyers Who Defend Against RIAA Suits

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  • Suing You Remotely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:37PM (#16083029) Journal
    Ok, so the RIAA's modus operandi seems to be filing suit against someone living half way across the country. If someone in California is charged for file sharing in New York (like what happened here [p2pnet.net], what can they do to stop this? Doesn't our justice system prevent this we-know-you're-not-going-to-come-all-the-way-over- here-so-just-settle-out-of-court strategy?
  • Evidence? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:40PM (#16083044) Journal
    I hear a lot that the RIAA has the weakest evidence ever in these cases. Such as screen shots of dynamic IP addresses [cdfreaks.com] taken from Kazaa. How the hell do judges across this country uphold these cases with such lack of concrete evidence? I mean, give me five minutes in photoshop and I'll make you a "screenshot" of Kazaa with www.whitehouse.gov's IP address listed over and over on it. Can't an expert witness cause this evidence to be thrown out quickly?
  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) * on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:45PM (#16083083)
    When I heard that the RIAA wanted to physically take possession of the equipment belonging to people they sued for discovery purposes, I was less than happy with that prospect. I use a hardware-encrypted hard drive that requires a bootup password. Without my cooperation, no one will every see what's on my drive. Given that the revelation of other content on my drive would place me in far greater jeopardy than anything having to do with pirated music (Assume the worst if you wish; you wouldn't be correct), I would never cooperate with such discovery.

    Is there any mecahnism by which the court can compel my cooperation and are there any penalties for steadfastly refusing to provide it?

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:51PM (#16083132)
    Now, this looks like chump change compared to the $150,000 per violation and 1,000 songs shared means $150,000,000 lawsuit. Is this smart or stupid? I mean, don't you, the lawyers that these people consult, tell them to fold and pay the little amount of money?

    I'm more interesting in knowing how they can justify calculating that they have lost $150,000 per song "shared" and why they don't have to show any proof that this amount damage actually occured per song.
  • by GlobalEcho ( 26240 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:01PM (#16083229)
    Some years ago, the RIAA's legal actions tended to be againt companies, such as Napster, that created the tools or ran servers used by millions of people to share files. Much of this sharing consisted of alleged copyright violations, so the argument was that such software was contributory to infringement despite any non-infringing uses it might have.

    Many people here on Slashdot were repelled (so to speak) by the attack on software that did truly have non-infringing uses, and argued that the lawsuits should target the individuals responsible, rather than the technology they were using. I had a lot of sympathy for those arguments.

    Now that the RIAA does sue individuals instead, do you believe they do so because it became too hard to sue companies, or because they bought into the idea of individual responsibility? In other words, did the category of lawsuits change because the companies and software are now structured so as to be too difficult to sue?
  • IP Addresses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:33PM (#16083537)
    I haven't looked at so-called screenshots that the RIAA produces in court, and haven't myself looked at a Kazaa screen (or limewire, etc) to see what kind of IP addresses are shown, but there are two possibilities: the public IP address or the Private IP address. More and more on the Internet, each public IP address has behind it some private IP addresses, that typically can't be connected reliably for a given time to a specific computer, let alone a specific hard drive.
    Does current 4th amendment legal precedent allow for the confiscation of anything capable of storing files from behind a public IP address?

    In otherwords, if I'm running a 'Internet cafe', and someone in my place allegedly downloads a music file, and the public IP shows up on an RIAA screenshot, is it legal for a judge to order everything in my cafe to be confiscated and searched? Does 4th amendment legal precedent allow for such mass grab-everything-and-go searches?

    Has anyone ever pointed out to a judge how easy it is to fake a screenshot? Are there any rules of discovery regarding such flimsy evidence? I mean, suppose I want to accuse the RIAA of threatening me with murder in a court, and produce a piece of paper with a death threat that has the RIAA's corporate headquarters letterhead on it, all on a very good looking piece of laser printed output. Wouldn't most courts throw out something so easily faked? What if I just handwrote in crayon "I'm the RIAA and I'm coming to kill you" on a piece of paper, and them sued them using that as evidence? How far would that get in a court of law?

    Are there such things as 'vexatious litigant' laws is some states? If so, how does someone get declared to be a 'vexatious litigant', and what are the consequences?

  • Re:Evidence? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:34PM (#16083541)
    How the hell do judges across this country uphold these cases with such lack of concrete evidence?

    Umm, the judges haven't upheld these cases. As far as I know, none of them have ever gone so far as to actually have a judge decide on one. Look at the "trial" section on the linked blog.
  • by Mixel ( 723232 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:37PM (#16083576) Homepage
    I'm confused. How does one define a 'unit' of infringement? I mean, is it a single tarball of albums by the same author, or a single album, or a single song, or maybe a single minute of a song? Surely if I should ever copy a tarball album without permission, I have only infringed once.
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @04:11PM (#16083938)

    True, other monopolies do exercise their powers against their customers, but in a cash-only way as far as I know. To explain a bit, has an oil company ever sued someone for using biodiesel? A cellular company for people using HAM radio? The analogies aren't perfect, but hopefully you get my gist. The RIAA seems to be doing something unique. They're not just gouging their customer base, they're taking them to court over perceived (and very hard to justify) damages in what amounts to an extortion racket.

    So, has any other cartel ever done anything like this?

  • Jury Nullification (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WarmBoota ( 675361 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @04:19PM (#16084027) Homepage
    Has anyone ever considered Jury Nullification to get folks to simply declare the concept of intellectual property and perpetual copyright invalid? If most folks agree (and I don't know if they do or not) that the law is broken, isn't the judge obliged to agree?
  • Isn't it illegal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cgreuter ( 82182 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @04:39PM (#16084224)

    It's pretty clear that the RIAA's lawsuit strategy is based on forcing a settlement rather than seeing the case go to court. Furthermore, it seems like these cases are pretty groundless and the only reason they keep winning is because it's cheaper to settle than it is to fight.

    So that being the case, isn't that barratry? Why hasn't the RIAA been charged for that?

  • by Civil_Disobedient ( 261825 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @04:57PM (#16084403)
    Instead of playing Whack-a-Mole by defending clients that are being extorted by these thugs in Gabardine, why aren't you doing anything about stopping it in the first place? Why haven't you petititioned the Attorney General to bring RICO charges against the members of the RIAA?
  • Bad Idea, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @06:55PM (#16085259) Homepage Journal
    What you propose would be consider withholding evidence, and push your case from a civil manner into the relm of prison time felony..

    THey dont even need to know the contents in that case. You lose by default on the RIAA case, and you get contempt of court to boot.

    Its a better idea to kill your drive before they come for it. accidents do happen.
  • Re:Guilty? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plantman-the-womb-st ( 776722 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @07:12PM (#16085372)
    In the US judges cannot award moneys if the defendant has no money. This is why no one ever sues bums or tent cities. If you can't pay, you don't have to.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.