Class Action Lawsuit Against The RIAA For 'Stolen' Money?

from the this-won't-end-well dept

A bunch of folks have been submitting the story about how Jammie Thomas' new lawyer, Kiwi Camara (a Charlie Nesson protege) and Nesson himself are apparently preparing to file a class action lawsuit against the RIAA in an attempt to get back the $100 million plus that they claim the industry "stole" in its settlements. This may be interesting from an academic standpoint (or from a PR/circus standpoint), but I have difficulty believing it will get very far in terms of actually succeeding. I do find the settlements distasteful, and bordering on extortion ("pay up or we sue" is really questionable), but earlier attempts at similar lawsuits haven't gone very far at all. Still, considering that the RIAA has always insisted that its entire legal campaign was part of a grossly misguided and ultimately self-damaging "PR campaign" perhaps it's okay that someone is effectively doing the same thing on the other side.


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  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Why aren't the artists suing the RIAA for this money. The RIAA keeps taking it (to protect the artists, of course) but yet the artists never see any of it.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Diplomacy

    If you want an apple; start with asking for an orchard.

    (May God pour her blessing on Charles Nesson's genius head!)

     

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  3.  
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    Rob, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    I think :Lobo is partially right, I think this is more of a grandstanding sort of maneuver of the best kind, to simply draw attention to the issue. If the general population sees that the RIAA is being accused of extorting money from customers in court, that will stick in their brains. Whether or not it goes any further than that really doesn't make a bit of difference. This is the sort of thing that Abbie Hoffman was doing in the 60's, albeit much more civilized (and legal for that matter). I think that these sorts of guerrilla tactics can be very effective in swaying public opinion and I stand wholeheartedly behind this lawsuit, even though it will most likely go down in flames.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    haha. I would laugh to the ends of the earth if the RIAA showed up in court and submitted a list of torrent sites and told them "go get your own money, idiots".

     

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    Dez (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    Ooh... I never thought of that side. Do you have a story posted somewhere to read about that? Techdirt... are you on it?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Missing the big picture

    No offense Mike, but I think you're missing the premise behind Nesson and Camara's actions. They're both intelligent people, and I highly doubt that they expect every court action they take to stick.

    However, take a look at the accusations that they're making in both the Jammie Thomas case and the class action lawsuit, and you'll see that they're basically forcing the RIAA to defend, in the court of law, the very foundation of their litigation.

    First, they have to prove that the settlement letters themselves are constitutional (the point of the $100 million lawsuit).

    If they can hold that up, they then have to prove that they actually own the copyright which is supposedly violated (apparently the documents provided in the Thomas case were apparently not certified, which is necessary for usage as court evidence).

    Even if they get the proper documents in time (the RIAA lawyers have been quoted saying that it would be difficult and expensive to procure them, so they're basically scrambling), they still have to deal with the lack of a Private Investigator license for MediaSentry, which could make any incriminating evidence against Thomas impermissible in court.

    If a single one of those arguments is validated, then the RIAA has basically lost its teeth (at least, in the Thomas case).

     

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    El Guapo, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Re:

    Haven't you heard of Trickle Down Economics? The RIAA believes that it will help the studios become so bloated with cash that some of it will leak out the doors and windows where the starving artists milling around waiting for work can just pick it up!

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 9:10am

    Re: Missing the big picture

    However, take a look at the accusations that they're making in both the Jammie Thomas case and the class action lawsuit, and you'll see that they're basically forcing the RIAA to defend, in the court of law, the very foundation of their litigation.

    I disagree. They're not trying to get the RIAA to defend the *premise* of its litigation strategy -- they're trying to nitpick around the edges to breakdown the litigation on procedural grounds.

    I tend to think that distracts from the real issues.

    The stuff you describe -- the certification, the letters, the investigators licenses -- are all procedural nitpicking, rather than anything substantive.

    The whole thing seems like a circus rather than a real inquiry into the legal issues.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Missing the big picture

    In any other circumstance, I would agree with you. However, these issues are not purely isolated to a singular case.

    Every one of the RIAA's settlement claims and lawsuits are based on disproportionate damages, using MediaSentry evidence to support claims of infringement (at least, until MediaSentry became discredited).

    I have no idea how the RIAA has been with documents in previous court cases, so this one instance could be isolated.

    So, while I agree that this does not deal with any of the fundamental legal issues, I disagree that it's not substantive. From a standpoint of those being pursued by hefty litigation, I would much rather have lawsuits dismissed outright based on nitpicking, rather than have a long, drawn out court case to argue the details of the law.

    Especially if I was Jammie Thomas.

     

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  10.  
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    AnonCow, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    If the RIAA publishes a list showing how much of the settlement funds they distributed to each copyright holder, I will stop downloading illegally.

     

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    Yankee Infidel, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    "I do find the settlements distasteful, and bordering on extortion ("pay up or we sue" is really questionable)..."

    I too find that such a statement is distasteful, but not because I feel the way you do that the statement is out of line, but because the statement is true as such acts carried out continuously by the MAFIAA's wiseguys is distasteful and deplorable.

    How exactly is their litigation campaign not wholly extortion in the same way that DirecTV went after buyers of smartcard programming devices that actually had a legitimate use by threatening them to either settle for a few grand with little to no evidence or face being dragged kicking and screaming through a long and more costly trial?

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20040416/1850223.shtml

    It's the same tactic, the same lack of incriminating evidence, and thus the same "pay up or we will sue" extortion.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Missing the big picture

    Mr. Masnick aptly observes that counsel for the defendants are trying to "nitpick" and have turned an important legal matter into a "circus". Even Mr. Beckerman, a longtime and forceful advocate for P2P defendants, has strongly criticized the path being pursued by Messrs. Nesson and Camara for at least the reasons noted by Mr. Masnick.

     

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    Michial Thompson, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Why hasn't anyone tried prosecuting for extortion?

    Why hasn't any of the big grand standing AG's ever tried to prosecute the RIAA for extortion? The simple fact that they are sending letters stating "Pay us $xxx.xx or we will sue" seems to meet the basic requirements of Extortion to me?

    Am I missing something?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re: Why hasn't anyone tried prosecuting for extortion?

    No, that is an attempt to negotiate settlement before taking it court. Extortion is more like "pay us money or we break your arms". The RIAA has copyright law on their side, the arm breakers don't have anything on their side to support arm breaking.

     

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  15.  
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    Swim, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    RE: Ima Fish 1st Comment

    Because they're sheep.
    The lack of action by the majority of "Artist" is akin to them asking daddy for allowance money. Or better yet (since analogies get famously blown out of proportion on this site)

    The relationship between the RIAA and their represented Artist's is the exact relationship a pimp has with his whore's. "Bitches better have my money." Nothing more.

     

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  16.  
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    bob, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    When It Comes To Questions Of Constitutionality

    If you have been paying attention lost of various court decisions have shredded the constitution.
    Up to and including the Chrysler Corporation decision that turns a company over to a foreign company partly owned by Iran. Ya got to love that part, taxpayer money going to Iran.
    But I digress. The Constitution of the United States has for the most part been put through the shredder. As will be evident be the current nominee to the SCOTUS, this will not stop any time soon.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Missing the big picture

    That wholly depends on what you consider important. For a sidelined debater, you see this as derailing the legal issues at hand for minor semantics.

    For anyone directly involved in the lawsuits, the important thing is ending the case with a favourable judgment, and quickly. Moreover, for any future (and past) defendants, having a precedent of court cases being dismissed based on poorly obtained evidence and flawed damage claims is far more relevant than knowing you can win after a drawn out lawsuit.

    Would it be better if copyright law was changed, and these legal actions were not even possible? Of course. However, it's simply not a reasonable expectation in the near future.

    The outcome from this defense isn't the copyright reform that I'm sure many are hoping for in the future, but (assuming anything good comes of it) it might be possible to see a stance like the one in Canada, where the attitude is that pursuing infringers is a waste of the legal system's time.

     

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  18.  
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    Mark, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    I think a pivotal thing in this case will be that a) MediaSentry's "evidence" will be tossed out almost without a doubt -- and rightly so .. they DOWNLOADED the tracks from the sharer, which means that they should also be liable of copyright infringement, and b) there are 24 tracks in question. If there is any sort of settlement, it should be for around $24, the price that they would cost to purchase online, and that's being generous. $10k per track is lame. That's probably more than they paid to produce the tracks in the first place!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Missing the big picture

    You may want to read the order just issued by the Judge in the Thomas case.

    See: http://copyrightsandcampaigns.blogspot.com/

     

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  20.  
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    Steve Dymond, Jun 18th, 2009 @ 9:24pm

    Go buy the albums

    I think her lawyer messed up big time. Should have gone a bought the albums the songs were on. I do belive if you buy the album you can make a copy for you own use. Putting them on you computer is the same as copy. You paid for them. Would have made the music industry look stupid.

     

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