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The Courts

RIAA Loses Case Against Launch Media 86

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA's claim that personalized internet radio stations were 'interactive services' was flatly rejected 'as a matter of law' by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Arista Records v. Launch Media. In affirming the jury's verdict in favor of the defendant, Launch Media — acquired during the lawsuit by Yahoo! — the Court said it did not even need to concern itself with possible errors in the jury instructions, since the trial judge should have directed a verdict for defendant 'as a matter of law' on the question of whether the radio stations were 'interactive services.' At pages 23-42 of its 42-page opinion (PDF), the appeals court carefully analyzed how Launch Media's personalized internet radio stations worked, and noted that the users could neither obtain and play on demand a particular song, nor obtain the transmission of a particular program, thus rendering the RIAA's claim of 'interactivity' meritless."
The Courts

Court Appoints Pro Bono Counsel For RIAA Defendant 123

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In what could be a turning point in the RIAA's litigation campaign, a Michigan judge has decided to appoint pro bono counsel to represent college student Brittany Kruger, who is being sued by the RIAA in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Kruger. As this article points out, 'if other judges follow suit, things will change dramatically.' That is because the RIAA's entire litigation campaign is based upon economic inequality of the litigants: almost none of those sued by the RIAA can afford legal representation, and the RIAA has a huge economic incentive to fight cases to the death, while the defendants have no economic incentive greater than the 'settlement' amount, which they often pay even when entirely innocent. If the courts follow the lead of District Judge Timothy P. Greeley [PDF], and appoint pro bono legal counsel, the RIAA will no longer be able to achieve the easy pickings default judgments and 'settlements' it's routinely obtained in the past."
The Courts

RIAA Loses Bid To Keep Revenues Secret 229

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA's motion to keep secret the record companies' 1999-to-date revenues for the copyrighted song files at the heart of the case has been denied, in the Boston case scheduled for trial July 27th, SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. The Judge had previously ordered the plaintiff record companies to produce a summary of the 1999-to-date revenues for the recordings, broken down into physical and digital sales. On the day the summary was due to be produced, instead of producing it, they produced a 'protective order motion' asking the Judge to rule that the information would have to be kept secret. The Judge rejected that motion: 'the Court does not comprehend how disclosure would impair the Plaintiffs' competitive business prospects when three of the four biggest record labels in the world — Warner Bros. Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and UMG Recording, Inc. — are participating jointly in this lawsuit and, presumably, would have joint access to this information.'"
The Courts

Judge May Take "Fair Use" Away From Jury 342

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In what I can only describe as a shocker, the Judge in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum has, on her own, issued an order questioning whether the jury will be allowed to decide the 'fair use' issue at all, or whether the Judge herself should decide it. Judge Nancy Gertner's decision (PDF) notes that the courts have traditionally submitted the fair use defense to the jury, but questions whether that was appropriate, since the courts have referred to it as an 'equitable' — as opposed to a 'legal' — defense. This decision came from out of the blue, as neither party had raised this issue. IMHO the Judge is barking up the wrong tree. For one, all across the legal spectrum in the US, 'equitable' defenses to 'legal' claims are triable to a jury. Secondly, as the Judge herself notes, the courts have traditionally submitted the issue to the jury. It also seems a bit unfair to bring up a totally new issue like that and give the parties only 6 days to do their research and writing on the subject, at a time when they are feverishly preparing for a July 27th trial."
The Courts

RIAA Defendant Moves For Summary Judgment 117

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "One thing you don't see too much of in RIAA litigation is a defendant moving for summary judgment, but that is what just occurred in federal court in Westchester, in Lava Records v. Amurao II. The RIAA had brought suit against Rolando Amurao, a middle aged man who knew nothing about file sharing. After haranguing him for 2 years, they dropped the case and sued his daughter, Audrey, who had used LimeWire years ago. When the RIAA moved for summary judgment against Audrey, however, she surprised them with a summary judgment motion of her own, calling for dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that the statute of limitations had run out on the RIAA's claims. The brief filed by her attorney (PDF) also points out some of the other infirmities in the RIAA's case, such as the inadmissibility of its evidence, the legal nonexistence of a claim for 'making available,' and the unconstitutionality of its damages theory. According to sources, the RIAA is unhappy about Audrey's motion, and is preparing a letter to send the Judge asking the Judge not to allow her to make it. Meanwhile, Audrey's father's case, Lava Records v. Rolando Amurao, is on appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit over the issue of whether the RIAA should have to reimburse Mr. Amurao for his attorneys fees. Although the appeal was fully briefed and scheduled for argument May 19th, the RIAA has been asking for postponements of the argument."
The Courts

How RIAA Case Should Have Played Out 296

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "If a regular 'country lawyer' like myself had taken a case like the RIAA's in Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset to court, he or she would have been laughed out of the courthouse. But when it's the RIAA suing, the plaintiffs are awarded a $1.92 million verdict for the infringement of $23.76 worth of song files. That's because RIAA litigation proceeds in a parallel universe, which on its face looks like litigation, but isn't. On my blog I fantasize as to how the trial would have ended had it taken place not in the 'parallel universe,' but in the real world of litigation. In that world, the case would have been dismissed. And if the Judge had submitted it to the jury instead of dismissing, and the jury had ruled in favor of the RIAA, the 'statutory damages' awarded would have been less than $18,000."
The Courts

RIAA Case, Capitol vs. Thomas #2, Starts Monday 166

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA's first trial verdict having been tossed out last year, the RIAA is coming back for a second round starting Monday. This time the trial will be in Minneapolis, rather than Duluth, and the defendant will have a team of pro bono lawyers on her side. But perhaps the most important new development is that this time, the 'technical' evidence garnered by MediaSentry and 'explained' by the RIAA's expert witness Doug Jacobson, will not get the free pass it got the first time around. In the 2007 trial in Capitol Records v. Thomas, no objection was made by defendant's lawyer to the MediaSentry/Doug Jacobson 'evidence' upon which the RIAA relied, and the evidence was admitted without objection. This time there will be no free ride, as defendant's tech-savvy lawyers have already filed a list of objections to the RIAA's proposed exhibits. Most notably, they attack the 'technical' materials submitted by MediaSentry and Dr. Doug Jacobson under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which requires evidence based on 'scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge' to be based on sufficient facts or data, to be the product of reliable principles and methods, and to be the result of those principles and methods having been applied reliably to the facts of the case. If the evidence fails to meet those standards, it is inadmissible. This judge has already shown acute awareness of these principles in deciding which subjects the defendant's expert could and could not address. This should be interesting."
The Courts

RIAA Wants To Bar Jammie From Making Objections 306

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In the Duluth, Minnesota case headed for a re-trial on June 15th, Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset, the RIAA has filed a motion seeking to bar the defendant, Jammie Thomas-Rasset (she got married recently), from making objections to the plaintiffs' copyright registration documents. To preempt those of you reacting with shock and anger at the American judicial system, let me assure you this motion has nothing to do with the American judicial system; the RIAA's motion has the chance of a snowball in Hell of being granted, as there is simply no legal basis for preventing a person from making valid legal objections in Trial #2, just because the lawyer she had in Trial #1 didn't make similar objections. I'm guessing that the RIAA lawyers realized they have some kind of problem with their paperwork, and thought this a clever way of short-circuiting it. Instead, of course, they have merely red-flagged it for Ms. Thomas-Rasset's new legal team. A few days earlier, the RIAA lawyers filed a similarly ludicrous motion trying to keep Ms. Thomas-Rasset's expert witness from testifying; that too is doomed."
The Courts

RIAA Drops Enforcement Case To "Sort Out" Inaccuracies 69

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The other day I reported on my blog that the record companies had assigned, to the RIAA itself, a $4000 default judgment they'd gotten against some lady in Massachusetts, and that the RIAA was going after the defendant with an 'enforcement' proceeding to squeeze the money out of her. Today, it turns out, the RIAA withdrew its motion because, according to the RIAA's collection lawyer, the motion 'contained factual inaccuracies ... which plaintiff needs to sort out' (PDF). The collection lawyer must be new around here; a few little 'factual inaccuracies' never bothered an RIAA lawyer before."
The Courts

RIAA Tries To Appeal Order Allowing Internet TV Court Broadcast 209

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA has appealed the order entered several days ago allowing the January 22nd hearing in SONY BMG Music v. Tenenbaum to be streamed over internet TV. Additionally, they've made a motion for a stay. I'm just a country lawyer, but as far as I know: (a) it's not possible to appeal the order, (b) it was procedurally improper and ineffective to file a notice of appeal, and (c) it was improper to direct their motion for a stay to the District Court Judge. Well, let's hope the arguments in the First Circuit will be streamed, too. Meanwhile, one commentator wonders why the tooth and nail opposition to broadcasting, since the professed aim of the litigations was to 'educate' the public?"
The Courts

RIAA Backs Down In Austin, Texas 230

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In November, 2004, several judges in the federal court in Austin, Texas, got together and ordered the RIAA to cease and desist from its practice of joining multiple 'John Does' in a single case. The RIAA blithely ignored the order, and continued the illegal practice for the next four years, but steering clear of Austin. In 2008, however, circumstances conspired to force the record companies back to that venue. In Arista v. Does 1-22, in Providence, Rhode Island, they were hoping to get the student identities from Rhode Island College. After the first round, however, they learned that the College was not the ISP; rather, the ISP was an Austin-based company, Apogee Telecom Inc., meaning the RIAA would have to serve its subpoena in Austin. The RIAA did just that, but Apogee — unlike so many other ISP's — did not turn over its subscribers' identities in response to the subpoena, instead filing objections. This meant the RIAA would have to go to court, to try to get the Court to overrule Apogee's objections. Instead, it opted to withdraw the subpoena and drop its case."
The Courts

RIAA Gives Up In Atlantic Recording v. Brennan 230

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In Atlantic Recording v. Brennan, the landmark Connecticut case in which the first decision rejecting the RIAA's 'making available' theory was handed down, the RIAA has finally thrown in the towel and dismissed its own case. Mr. Brennan never appeared in the case at all. In February, 2008, the RIAA's motion for a default judgment was rejected for a number of reasons, including the Court's ruling (PDF) that there is no claim for 'making available for distribution' under the US Copyright Act. The RIAA moved for reconsideration; that motion was denied. Then, in December, the RIAA's second motion for default judgment was rejected. Finally the RIAA filed a 'notice of dismissal' ending the case."
The Courts

Entire Transcript of RIAA's Only Trial Now Online 315

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The entire transcript of the RIAA's 'perfect storm,' its first and only trial, which resulted in a $222,000 verdict in a case involving 24 MP3's having a retail value of $23.76, is now available online. After over a year of trying, we have finally obtained the transcript of the Duluth, Minnesota, jury trial which took place October 2, 2007, to October 4, 2007, in Capitol Records v. Thomas. Its 643 pages represent a treasure trove for (a) lawyers representing defendants in other RIAA cases, (b) technologists anxious to see how a MediaSentry investigator and the RIAA's expert witness combined to convince the jurors that the RIAA had proved its case, and (c) anybody interested in finding out about such things as the early-morning October 4th argument in which the RIAA lawyer convinced the judge to make the mistake which forced him to eventually vacate the jury's verdict, and the testimony of SONY BMG's Jennifer Pariser in which she 'misspoke' according to the RIAA's Cary Sherman when she testified under oath that making a copy from one's CD to one's computer is 'stealing.' The transcript was a gift from the 'Joel Fights Back Against RIAA' team defending SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, in Boston, Massachusetts. I have the transcript in 3 segments: October 2nd (278 pages(PDF), October 3rd (263 pages)(PDF), and October 4th (100 pages)(PDF)."

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