Court Says Demanding Settlement To Avoid Clearly Baseless Lawsuit Is Extortion

from the hmmm... dept

Over the past few years, we've seen a small, but growing, number of businesses that set up lawsuit settlement factories, of sorts. The most common, of course, is the RIAA, which built a nice little business threatening to sue people for file sharing if they didn't hand over a few thousand dollars. Of course, before the RIAA, DirecTV did this for a group of folks who had purchased card readers. For many people, this whole process of demanding payment to avoid a lawsuit sounds an awful lot like "protection money," or extortion. Eric Goldman alerts me to a recent ruling by the New Hampshire Supreme Court that agrees that such settlement demands can be extortion, if the potential lawsuit is clearly baseless. Of course, this is only in New Hampshire and folks at the RIAA (I'm sure) would insist that its lawsuit threats were not "clearly baseless." That may be true in some of them, but you do have to wonder about the time they threatened a deceased woman who was 83 years old at the time of the supposed sharing, and seemed unlikely to have used Kazaa or the user named "smittenedkitten" while sharing 700 songs.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    PopeHilarius (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    How would this work in practice, as it stands it's something along the lines of big group with lots of lawyers says:
    "I'm suing you over something baseless! But it is more costly to defend yourself in court than just settle! I have made a mockery of justice!"

    The NH law changes it to:
    "As above, except now you could try to prove to a court my claim is baseless. But it will cost you more to try and allege that in court than just settle. I win again!"

    Unless I'm missing something.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    Re:

    yeah, Extortion is a Criminal (not Civil) offense. Therefore you can report such cases to the police and hope that they haven't been bought so that they will pursue the case and it won't cost you anything.

     

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  3.  
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    ..., Aug 12th, 2009 @ 4:49pm

    New - this Fall

    CSI - Extortion Victims Unit

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:10pm

    In the copyright justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the lawyers, who file lawsuits, and the police, who investigate them for extortion. These are their stories.

     

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  5.  
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    DJ (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Re:

    Also, there are tons of lawyers who might take this case because, if they win, the payoff is freaking HUGE.

     

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  6.  
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    DJ (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes, lawyers, I'm talking to you. Think about it: fight a corporation and prove that they are committing extortion???

    Can we say big budget movie about you??? (pun intended)

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:41pm

    Clearly baseless for the RIAA would mean that the person who was sued submitted their computer for inspection and absolutely nothing was found on it. Oh yeah, no open wifi,no visitors logging on, no kids, no cats, no SODDI excuse.

    The chance that it's found CLEARLY baseless is nil.

    Once again Mike, you are reaching really, really far trying to find a small hole in the system. Again, FAIL.

     

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  8.  
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    Amaress, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:46pm

    Jeeze Mike...

    Don't deem that lawsuit baseless because of the user name...

    Old women can be feisty too.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:51pm

    Clearly baseless for the RIAA would mean that the person who was sued submitted their computer for inspection and absolutely nothing was found on it. Oh yeah, no open wifi,no visitors logging on, no kids, no cats, no SODDI excuse.


    Actually, here in the land of the free, where you are innocent until proven guilty, clearly baseless should mean lacking any evidence. You should have to submit anything to anyone for any checks of any kind. This isn't nazi germany, no martial law has been declared. go back to your cave riaa troll

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:06pm

    Re:

    Lacking any evidence would mean they wouldn't have an IP address, and would have no reason to look.

    Baseless would be the telephone book approach, sending infringement notices and suing people only for being int he phone book. Working with ANY evidence at all would not be "Baseless".

    Go back into your cave, torrent troll.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:14pm

    Re: Re:

    You mean like when the RIAA tries to get the FCC to go into some baseless investigation over some high school event that occurred during the time span of one month TWO YEARS GO because some highschool declared it wanted to boycott signed artists?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    TWO YEARS GO/TWO YEARS AGO

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    SP/TWO YEARS GO/TWO YEARS AGO

    In other words, just because they have an IP address doesn't mean the case isn't baseless. That's nonsense, for all I know they could have made up the IP address and given their LONG history of clinging to baseless issues it's no stretch of the imagination to think that they would.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Hey, there were printers with IP addresses. The RIAA was kind enough to send Cease and Desist letters...which I'm assuming were promptly printed :D.

     

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  15.  
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    Josh (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Game changing

    I hate cliches, but game changing comes to mind for many "intellectual property" lawsuits if this every works its way to the national level.

    Baseless patent infringement lawsuits? Show clear prior art, have the USPTO invalidate the patent, and bam, tables turned, now the patent troll has to worry about defending himself from criminal charges.

    Baseless trademark infringement claims that clearly wouldn't pass the moron-in-a-hurry test? Gone if they sue for any amount of money (including lawyer fees)!

    Too bad this wasn't around when SCO started their shenanigans.

     

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