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The RIAA's days of getting guilty verdicts rubber stamped is at an end.  (Source:
The RIAA loses a precedent-setting case, Interscope v. Rodriguez, in Southern California.

A judge in Southern California made no friends in the RIAA when she handed down a precedent-setting verdict that cleared the defendant all charges in the case Interscope v. Rodriguez.

Since the early days of P2P file-sharing the RIAA has made a questionable name for itself as a legal bulldog, issuing thousands of lawsuits against individuals each year. 

Typically the RIAA accused these individuals of downloading and/or distributing copyrighted works.  These statements often were followed by little evidence and sometimes came against people that had no apparent access to a computer.

One such case occurred in 2005 when the RIAA took up a case against 83-year-old deceased great-grandmother in West Virginia.  The RIAA was unaware that the woman had passed away in December, 2004.  Ironically, her daughter testified that her mother did not ever own a computer, and had no access to one.

After the case gained national attention, the RIAA issued the foot-in-mouth reply, "Our evidence gathering and our subsequent legal actions all were initiated weeks and even months ago.  We will now, of course, obviously dismiss this case."

Since then the RIAA has continued to take individuals to court, many of whom settled out of court privately, for thousands of dollars.

The Interscope v. Rodriguez was considered a typical RIAA case “boilerplate” complaint.  The RIAA accused the defendant, Yolanda Rodriguez, of downloading and distributing copyrighted works, but did not offer any specific evidence or proof of its claims.

As the defendant did not present himself in court, a default judgment ruling was held.  The presiding judge, Judge Brewster, shocked the RIAA by not only denying a default monetary judgment, but also completing dismissing the case for failure to state a claim.

Judge Brewster is on record as stating:
"Plaintiff here must present at least some facts to show the plausibility of their allegations of copyright infringement against the Defendant.
However, other than the bare conclusory statement that on “information and belief” defendant has downloaded, distributed and/or made available for distribution to the public copyrighted works, plaintiffs have presented no facts that would indicate this allegation is anything more than speculation.

The complaint is simply a boilerplate listing of the elements of copyright infringement without any facts pertaining specifically to the instant Defendant.

The Court therefore finds that the complaint fails to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief can be granted and entry of default judgment is not warranted."
This is a landmark ruling, as new defendants will now have some legal precedent and successful framework to challenge the RIAA in court.

The RIAA has made a name for itself by continually coming up with creative new ways of trying to make money of music listeners, via litigation and marketing gimmicks.  It has tried everything from lawsuits, to "ringles" its new ringtone-single campaign, to make up for falling record sales.

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RE: Wow
By ajfink on 9/14/2007 3:59:01 PM , Rating: 2
True, they don't have the greatest record when it comes to making common sense rulings, but they made a good one here. It makes sense, RIAA does little more than say "they distributed songs online" and expects people to pay up. This won't stop the lawsuits, though, just make RIAA have their act together when they walk into the courtroom rather than expecting default judgments.

RE: Wow
By marvdmartian on 9/14/2007 4:11:00 PM , Rating: 5
Well, I'd still expect them to come out with the same BS lawsuit threats in the future, because they know that most people on p2p are uninformed, and will cave in when threatened.
For those that won't, the RIAA will be forced to actually PROVE that person's guilt....which may not be as easy as you think. Granted, you might prove that the person is willing to share copyrighted works, by the simple fact that they have p2p software on their computer, but you'd get as far with that as you would with saying that anyone that owns a firearm is capable of robbing a store, then trying to sue (or arrest) them because the store got robbed. Intent or capability is not the same as the actual act of theft.
Pretty much, unless they can prove that Joe Schmoe was the exact person who allowed X number of bits of data from a copyrighted material to be downloaded from their computer to another person, then they're going to have a tough sell in any court with a lick of sense. While the burden of proof isn't quite as tough in civil court as it is in criminal court (take OJ Simpson for example), you still cannot win your case simply on the fact that the person was capable of sharing, and willing to do so, without some pretty compelling evidence that they actually did so.

RE: Wow
By A5un on 9/14/2007 4:22:11 PM , Rating: 2
That's exactly what's happening on a lot of college campuses (or campi? lol who knows). These poor college students get sued for allegedly illegally distributing/downloading crap, and often times they resort to private settlements in thousands of dollars. Almost seems to me RIAA's just ganging up on these ignorant college students who don't know any better.

Innocent till proven guilty. RIAA can trace their IP's all they want, but how they connect IP's to a person, that's another story. I don't think I'll be held responsible if my car is somehow involved in a crash and I wasn't in it.

RE: Wow
By Christopher1 on 9/14/2007 9:38:27 PM , Rating: 2
True. College's are usually on shared IP's and some of them are even on Wireless networks now. It is impossible to link something to one person on a wireless network unless you catch them with something or downloading something at the very SECOND they are doing it.

RE: Wow
By acejj26 on 9/14/2007 11:07:25 PM , Rating: 4
Innocent until proven guilty is only pertinent in criminal law. These cases are all tried in civil court.

RE: Wow
By Shoal07 on 9/17/2007 7:35:07 AM , Rating: 5
Not true, you’re always innocent until found guilty (or liable). What you’re looking for is the difference in evidence required to find a person guilty/liable. In criminal cases, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, it’s a preponderance of the evidence. That’s why OJ got the smack down in civil court - there was a preponderance of evidence that showed he was liable.

The claim here is that there is no evidence at all specifically targeting the defendant.

RE: Wow
By SoCalBoomer on 9/20/2007 8:03:01 PM , Rating: 2
The burden of proof is different (reasonable doubt vs. preponderance of evidence) but the principle of innocent until proven guilty is still applicable as it is considered a civil right, not a legal right, stemming from the 5th and 6th amendments (part of the Bill of Rights) and the 14th. These have been broadly (and rightly) interpreted to include the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" and have consistently been applied to civil as well as legal rights.

It's considered a "fundamental right" - not a criminal area right.

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