Thursday, January 31, 2008

Magistrate Judge Bitchslaps RIAA (procedurally)

Not the sexiest post you'll see today, but interesting nonetheless.

A federal magistrate judge in Maine has suggested that RIAA lawyers may be subject to sanctions for some creative over-reaching in a lawsuit against 27 unnamed students at UMaine.

The RIAA brought a suit against the unknown students are they somehow found out that 27 kids using the same downloading tools on the same ISP downloaded some pirated music. The RIAA sought to join all the potential defendants together in the same lawsuit, probably saving litigation costs, under the theory that this was all within the same transaction or occurrence. The RIAA relied on some (kind of vague) language in the Court's procedural rules that allows a plaintiff to bring a suit if it's allegations have factual support or are so specific that they would have factual support after a reasonable time for investigation or discovery (that's F.R.C.P. 11(b)(3) legal nerds).

The judge wouldn't have it. She questioned how several different people using the same ISP to do something similar constitutes, of itself, the same transaction. Basically, she's saying that the RIAA's allegations are logically unsound, and they are just trying to lump some poor kids together to save litigation costs. After all, if this wasn't the same transaction, the RIAA would need to bring 27 separate suits.

Personally, I applaud the judge here. Organizations like the RIAA have teams and teams of very bright folks working for them, putting in thousands of hours to try and come up with arguments that would baffle judges and coerce defendants into submission. It's typical big-money over-reaching, and the proletarian in me is wearing an ear-to-ear grin to see them beaten at their own game.

Addendum: I forgot to mention possibly the most important thing about this case. The same procedural rule that the RIAA was playing fast and loose with, Rule 11, also carries fines and other sanctions for making misrepresentations to a court. So, keep your eyes peeled for news on this one. The RIAA might really get what's coming to them.

1 comment:

Dews said...

God Bless you Dewey!

I couldn't do this story justice, as my legal knowledge (as well as mild robo-tripping status) would not have done it justice.

It is very clear to me that the RIAA has not been playing by the rules for some time though, so its good to see them lose.