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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: Umm NO!
By masher2 (blog) on 9/14/2007 4:11:38 PM , Rating: 3
> "A lower court ruling DOES NOT SET precedent!!!"

Incorrect. A lower court ruling does not set a binding precedent for a higher court. But lower court rulings can and do generate advisory precedents.

Dismissals with prejudice can generate precedent as well.

RE: Umm NO!
By ElFenix on 9/14/2007 5:02:53 PM , Rating: 3
correct, and they are of very little value. citing prior trial court decisions should not be relied on as your only defense. not only do they not set binding precedent on higher courts (which never happens), they don't set binding precedent on other trial courts in their own states, not to mention other states. so, in effect, it's of very very little value (probably mostly in california and then only to the extent that this judge is respected by his peers), and the blog poster is a little overboard in his exuberance about the importance of the decision.

kudos to the judge for being a gatekeeper. i wonder if california provides the judge this authority or not? and if not, will it be appealed?

RE: Umm NO!
By borowki on 9/14/2007 6:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think it's in the code. It won't surprise me if the decision gets overturned.

RE: Umm NO!
By michal1980 on 9/14/07, Rating: -1
RE: Umm NO!
By deeznuts on 9/14/07, Rating: 0
RE: Umm NO!
By 3kliksphilip on 9/15/2007 2:25:11 PM , Rating: 1
Don't go near michal1980! He's infected with a virus which makes your post rating go down to -1.

RE: Umm NO!
By 3kliksphilip on 9/15/2007 7:38:45 PM , Rating: 1
oh GOD it's happened to me as well

RE: Umm NO!
By tcsenter on 9/14/2007 10:28:55 PM , Rating: 2
lol! There was no "ruling" of any kind. It was a judicial order, very different from a judicial "ruling" (in which there is a legal outcome). This kind of thing happens at least 100 times every day in the federal district court system. Stop the presses!

The judge denied RIAA's motion to certify default judgement due to insufficient evidence the defendant actually engaged in the alleged infringing activity. Contrary to what has been reported, Judge Brewster did not dismiss RIAA's compliant. He granted RIAA leave to amend the complaint.

This differs from dimissal in that RIAA's complaint is still alive and well on the court's docket. If the case had been dismissed, it would cease to exist.

An order granting leave to amend paves the way for immediate default judgement in favor of RIAA if two conditions are met:

- Defandant does not respond to the amended complaint within 20 days of service as ordered by the court
- Plaintiff has provided additional details supporting its claim to the judge's satisfaction

The judicial order is nothing more than a procedural speed-bump caused by an overworked legal assistant who skimped on the supporting documentation. It had absolutely nothing to say about any fundamental legal question that would remotely set precedent.

Now...when this very same Judge Rudi M. Brewster overturned a jury's $1.5 billion award against Microsoft in the Alcatel-Lucent MP3 suit, THAT was a "ruling" on the fundamental merits of Alcatel-Lucent's case, in Judge Brewster's finding that Microsoft conclusively proved it did not infringe on two patents in question.

RE: Umm NO!
By sxr7171 on 9/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: Umm NO!
By borowki on 9/15/2007 8:32:37 PM , Rating: 2
That makes more sense. It did seem rather odd to me that the judge could make a ruling against the RIAA when nothing was filed in that regard.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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