You had some excellent questions for attorneys Ty Rogers and Ray Beckerman, who maintain the Recording Industry vs The People blog. Here are their answers, verbatim, as they were sent to us by Mr. Beckerman.
If you are completely guilty and are sued, but do not have the money to pay, what are your options?
One option is to defend yourself, relying on the affirmative defenses. If you can find a pro bono lawyer, great. If not, go in to the pro se clerk at the courthouse and ask for a jury trial. Another option, if it's acceptable to you, is to default. They will usually get a default judgment against you for the exhibit A list (the songs they downloaded) x $750 plus court costs.
2) Biggest Mistake?
What's the biggest mistake you've seen people make historically in cases where they're charged by the RIAA?
It's hard to generalize about that, because each person's facts, each person's personality, each person's intellect and ability, are different. Generally, there is no real good way to handle these cases, so anything anyone does is a mistake, in that sense. But in another sense, there are no mistakes, because there is no right answer.
3) How can we prevent needing your services?
What should we do to prevent needing your services? Another way of putting this is, how do we avoid getting sued by the RIAA?
All of the cases that I have seen stem from people who are using a Fast Track sharing program such as Kazaa, Imesh, Gnutella, LimeWire, etc., having a shared files folder with copyrighted songs in it, even if the song files were obtained legally. So even making sure to pay for all of your downloads wouldn't protect you from a lawsuit. The only way I know to avoid the present litigation wave is to avoid having shared files of copyrighted songs.
4) Systemic Problem?
Do you see the current situation as a systemic problem in the current torts system? Specifically, do you think we need legislative intervention to correct the "money bias" in our legal system?
I mean, there doesn't seem to be much of a way to fight an RIAA lawsuit money-wise. It always seems to end quickly: Either the defendant ist so obviously innocent they drop the case or he/she settles for "pennies on the dollar". When do you think we'll see a few definite trials to answer the hanging legal questions about investigative tactics and what an IP proves?
I think some good rulings by the judges would shut the whole thing down, so no I don't think it's necessary to revise the statutes. I do think it's important for our society to get behind the defendants financially, because if they don't there are going to be a lot of wacky rulings by judges which are going to dismember the internet as we know it.
5) Lawyers from outer space?
You guys are lawyers AND like to help people? What's it like on your home planet ;) ?
Lawyers are just like any other people. There are good people and bad people. The people who come out the strongest against 'trial lawyers' are the big corporations' PR departments. They want the 'common folk' to think ill of lawyers, because the law -- as imperfect as it is -- is the only equalizer left. And it's being eroded rapidly. And people dissing lawyers all the time helps that process.
What's the position of Americans who buy from legal offshore music sites, such as allofmp3 [allofmp3.com]?. Is this safer than downloading "free"?
I don't know what you're talking about. The litigation wave is worldwide. The RIAA isn't American. 3 of the 4 members of the cartel are "offshore corporations". There are different versions of the RIAA everywhere. In France, and certain other places, they bring CRIMINAL cases, not civil ones.
7) Gray Area Questions
Over the years I have attempted to educate some of the 'younger' generation about the do-s and don't-s of music copying and sharing. The following questions have come up out of real experiences and I have never had anyone provide a reasonable (justifiable) answer.
1. If I purchase a CD and it is subsequently stolen (along with my 5 disc changer *@$#!!) do I retain any rights to listen to that music?
. a. Are the .mp3 files of that CD on my computer legal or do they now belong to the thief too?
. b. Can I re-burn a CD from the .mp3s and is that legal?
. c. Does me having a backup copy of the files on my computer mean I can't make an insurance claim?
. d. What if it is destroyed (for example by a fire) rather than stolen?
2. If I purchase a CD and it is subsequently scratched or broken to the point where it is not playable, can I legally download the songs from that CD from a file-sharing network?
3. If I purchase the DVD for a movie, could I legally download songs from the soundtrack for that movie from a file-sharing network?
4. If I purchase a CD that our entire family listens to, and then my daughter leaves for College, can she legally take a copy of an .mp3 ripped from that CD with her on her computer? or - similarly - could she take the disc and could I keep the .mp3 on my computer?
Isn't this kind of a multiple question?
You shouldn't be trying to educate the younger generation about this stuff. The law is unsettled. Even lawyers don't know how it's all going to play out. Plus you seem to have a general misunderstanding about the basic principles of copyright law. When you buy a copy of something you have rights in the copy, that's it. No metaphysical rights to listen, reproduce additional copies, etc. I don't know what gives you this idea.
1. There's no such thing as a listening right, I don't know where you get that from.
a. I don't know what MP3 files you are talking about, how do you know you were entitled to make those copies legally?
b. See b above
c. Ask your insurance co.
d. Same answers.
2. I doubt it.
3. I doubt it.
4. I don't know.
8) Why aren't you going on the offensive?
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 petitioned the Attorney General to bring RICO charges against the members of the RIAA?
I'm an ordinary lawyer doing the best I can. How do you know who I've gone to or spoken to? As far as going to the Attorney General, haven't you been reading? The US Attorney General is on the RIAA's side. See Statement of Interest of U. S. Dept. of Justice in Elektra v. Barker.
I hear a lot that the RIAA has the weakest evidence ever in these cases. Such as screen shots of dynamic IP addresses - http://www.cdfreaks.com/news/13747 - 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?
I've tried, eldavojohn, I've tried. Look at our court papers in Motown v. Does 1-149. The judge didn't want to hear a word I was saying. You are absolutely correct that the entire underpinning of each case is a joke. An astute judge would laugh them out of court, as the Netherlands and Canadian courts have done.
10) Other drive content and RIAA fishing expeditions
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 mechanism by which the court can compel my cooperation and are there any penalties for steadfastly refusing to provide it?
There will probably be a lot of litigation over privacy issues in the hard drive inspection thing. But if you just want to play hardball, the judge would probably just strike your answer and give the RIAA a money judgment by default.