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The RIAA's days of getting guilty verdicts rubber stamped is at an end.  (Source: images.jupiterimages.com)
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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Why......
By A5un on 9/14/2007 4:29:17 PM , Rating: 4
This is a question that's always been bothering me:

How the heck can someone be liable for thousands of dollars' worth of damaged by downloading, say, 700 songs?

One song on iTune at $.99 each means that the actualy "worth" of these songs are valued at less than that. How else can these recording companies make their dough? So assuming a worth at $.50, that's just $350! Why is it I always hear people getting sued for thousands and thousands of dollars?

Sure the 700 songs can be shared, therefore distributed illegally, which also means lost profit. But if these companies are suing the people who downloaded any of these 700 songs, it seems to me there's some overlapping involved.




RE: Why......
By CKDragon on 9/14/2007 4:50:55 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not going to be able to give you the detailed legal answer that others would, but I think I can help. They're being sued for an amount that is supposed to represent damages.

You have to keep in mind that some of the money is meant as a punishment for the individual and deterrent for others. Imagine you steal $1000 worth of something from a store. If you're caught, you won't just be required to re-pay the $1000. There would be additional consequences such as community service, probation, jail time, etc. As far as I understand it, that's their reasoning behind the crazy dollar amount.


RE: Why......
By Christopher1 on 9/14/2007 9:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that the reasoning, but it's fallacious reasoning and the only thing it does is make people hate the legal system and hate the government and these companies.


RE: Why......
By Icepick on 9/14/2007 4:50:55 PM , Rating: 2
That's because those found guilty of copyright infringement can have be liable for up to $100,000 per infringement. That would be $100,000 per song in your example. When faced with maximum fines on that scale it begins to sound like a bargain to settle out of court for, say $5,000-$20,000.


RE: Why......
By Lazarus Dark on 9/17/2007 5:10:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but that's rediculous. If I dl'd 100 songs and they wanted to charge me 100,000$ per, I'd never pay it in my life. I can scarcely afford to eat as it is, if they garnished my wages, I'd be on the street. May as well change my name and move to Canada. Even a 1000 dollar fine and I'd be on the street. That's over two months rent.


RE: Why......
By MonkeyPaw on 9/14/2007 5:44:09 PM , Rating: 3
It's not the value of the items stolen that determines the value of the penalty. If you simply made the penalty for stealing the same as the price of the goods, you'd have rampant stealing everywhere you go. For a law to be an effective deterrent, you have to make the potential punishment worse than the potential gain.


RE: Why......
By mindless1 on 9/15/2007 1:36:02 AM , Rating: 2
The answer is that they aren't actually liable under the legal system, the figure is arbitrary and deceitful, a misuse of our legal system to extort money from those who don't have pockets deep enough (or enough conviction) to fight it.

You're being random though, there is no justification on settling for some 700 song number, it could as easily be 20 songs or 30,000. I tend to think the former is closer than the latter, but I really don't know. At the very least, it should be a matter of demonstrated losses and proven # of songs shared. In the end, even if we presumed some figure like $1 a song, that would be $1 value to those who were willing to pay the $1, which are those who weren't trying to fileshare at all, were downloading it from a eMusic store instead so to claim loss from sharing with those not in a customer marketable position at all is a bit crazy but I digress.


RE: Why......
By theapparition on 9/17/2007 8:29:17 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that the lawsuits are ridiculous. Where they come up with their monetary damages, (I believe) is from following:

To my knowledge, very few (if anyone) has been sued for downloading. Rather, it is more from uploading. So your on a torrent, downloading and sharing files, and then they find your IP from the upload.

So even the value of a $.99 song (let's just say $1) would be $700 for those 700 downloaded songs. However, their position is that you've uploaded that to a large number of others, and they are now losing money not only on your 1 illegal download, but the (assumed) thousands of others that have downloaded your song.

Can they prove that you have uploaded X number of times and should be held accountable? Can they prove that they actually suffered monetary loss? No they can't, which is why I applaud this ruling. People should not steal, period. But companies should only be allowed to file verifiable lawsuits, and frivilous ones should cost them.

Same old story, though. Tapes are going to kill record sales. No one will go to the movies anymore with VHS, digital downloads will kill sales, etc, etc. Their business has been booming throughout. But the industry has taken its first steps at radically changing (only in the last few years). The recording companies, (RIAA and MPAA) better get with the times or they will find themselves as usefull as a poopy-flavored lolly-pop. :P


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