EMI Back To Trying To Personally Bankrupt Michael Robertson

from the despicable dept

It's one thing to try to influence politicians and laws to protect an incredibly obsolete business model. It's another thing to try to shut down innovative companies who are better serving the market than you can. But it's in an entirely different class of evil to go after individuals personally for the actions of companies, in an attempt to bankrupt them. Stand up and take a bow, EMI, for not just doing the latter, but then paying a witness, getting her to change her deposition and get a lawsuit reinstated against an individual after the judge had already tossed it out. EMI has leapfrogged to the front of the line for the most despicable record labels out there. No wonder their artists are jumping ship as fast as possible.

You may recall that EMI not only sued Michael Robertson's most recent company, MP3Tunes, but also sued Robertson personally, which is an intimidation technique that creates tremendous chilling effects for any executive or founder of any company. We thought it was good news a year ago, when the court dismissed the part against Robertson directly. The whole lawsuit seems crazy anyway. MP3Tunes isn't set up for infringement -- it just sets up a way for you to store your own songs online in a music locker for your own personal access. So the whole lawsuit is questionable anyway, but seems to be part of EMI's greater strategy of suing every innovative music startup.

However, a new ruling has apparently put Robertson personally back in the firing line, after MP3Tunes' former president gave a new deposition (after she was fired, and well after her original deposition). The new testimony apparently convinced the judge to reinstate the personal lawsuit against Robertson, though the judge doesn't seem to discount the fact that Emily Richards had been fired by Robertson (so her new testimony should be suspect already) and the rather interesting fact that EMI paid Richards $10,000. That combination of facts should raise plenty of credibility questions, but apparently did not.

So, once again, we're left with an incredibly chilling situation, where execs of companies are being sued personally -- exactly what the entire corporate structure is designed to prevent. So, congrats, EMI, for reaching a new low in misguided copyright-related lawsuits.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Question...

    Maybe it was covered in one of the above links, but:

    "The new testimony apparently convinced the judge to reinstate the personal lawsuit against Robertson, though the judge doesn't seem to discount the fact that Emily Richards had been fired by Robertson (so her new testimony should be suspect already) and the rather interesting fact that EMI paid Richards $10,000."

    The two questions that spring to mind are --

    1. What was she fired for?

    and

    2. What was she paid by EMI for? They CAN'T have paid her to be a witness, can they? Or are the calling her taking the stand "expert testimony"?

     

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  2.  
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    AC's love child, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Seems to me

    that if this is successful, EMI's CEO would be shaking in his boots. Breach of contract? sue the CEO as well as the company... asinine!

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    I don't know, I kind of like the idea of holding corporate decision makers personally liable for the decisions they make. If a corporation willfully decides to kill people by dumping toxic waste in a water supply, does it really feel like justice to give the corporation a fine? A real human being made the decision, and that real human being should have to go to prison for murder. But if it just means the corporation gets a fine, how is that a disincentive to the real human being who made the decision? By the time its found out they might have a new job at a new company with a nice golden parachute, so what do they care about a corporate fine?

    I don't think the corporate shield is a good thing.

     

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  4.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    sounds like SLAPP

    would EMI's strategy fit into a possible SLAPP scenario?

     

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  5.  
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    Jim L, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Mike will be fine

    I believe that Mike lives for these kind of altercations even going back to Lindows.
    He will use this corruption to gain more publicity for his product and I have no doubt he will land on his feet.

     

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  6.  
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    www.eZee.se (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:59am

    If course they were going to sue, rather than have your music locked up but accessible from where ever you are traveling, they would like you to buy a copy of that music over and over again.

    Plus the service was/is innovative, which is a bad word in the music industry, their mantra being "since we cant do it, lets crush others who can".

    As for going after the person rather than the company, i kind of have mixed feelings about it, can someone go after Cary Sherman / Dan Glickman and the rest of the scumbags instead of the **AA? If yes, I like it, if no... dont like it all that much.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    Who ever is making these alleged charges against Michael Robertson seems alot like this guy:
    http://www.wptz.com/news/21336430/detail.html

    If the toilet doesn't work right, don't try to fix the problem with a corkscrew, and if the business doesn't work, frivolous lawsuits aren't the answer. In both cases, any sane person can clearly pretty clearly see that you're using the wrong tools for the actual problem at hand.

     

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  8.  
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    Ryan, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Well

    Funny, I was gonna write a sarcastic comment that there would probably be people on here complaining that bringing civil cases against individuals for company actions is a justifiable precedent just because of the rampant hatred of anything corporate these days, but I was beaten to the punch in the first six comments.

    If a corporation willfully decides to kill people by dumping toxic waste in a water supply, does it really feel like justice to give the corporation a fine?

    That is a criminal issue and in your scenario is presumably made knowingly and willfully by individuals who had direct power to enact the action--they are not protected by a shield. However, say those individuals were lower executives and you were the CEO without knowledge or even just a stockholder that included the company as part of one of your mutual funds; are you saying you should be personally liable for the actions of others within the company?

    As for going after the person rather than the company, i kind of have mixed feelings about it, can someone go after Cary Sherman / Dan Glickman and the rest of the scumbags instead of the **AA? If yes, I like it, if no... dont like it all that much.

    I presume you are joking, but this is the antithesis of rule of law; its legal if I like you and illegal if I don't. Certainly not a good precendent, even if it would be fun to see certain RIAA execs to get framed for possession of child porn or something.

     

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  9.  
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    Dean Johnson, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:20am

    The Master SEO

    Well in my viewpoint it a publicity stunt. Happened before

    Dean

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re: Well

    "I presume you are joking, but this is the antithesis of rule of law; its legal if I like you and illegal if I don't."

    I think the point he's making is that it wouldn't be fair to go after these executives personally late in the game, especially since they really didn't do anything wrong, simply because you don't like them (while not personally going after other executives who have done something wrong).

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    and, i agree with you. wish I could have filed a sui against the bastards that helped spur the economy down the hole. But I digress.
    Now in this specific case, I don't think the exec should be getting sued (The case seems to be on shaky legs regardless of who or what is actually getting sued), but all in all I agree with the above. CEO's shouldn't be allowed to escape a lawsuit with a nice big bonus and a "retirement".

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Re:

    "Plus the service was/is innovative, which is a bad word in the music industry, their mantra being "since we cant do it, lets crush others who can"."

    I think this is simply more evidence that innovative is a bad word for intellectual property maximists so they must go after anyone who innovates. This is more evidence that intellectual property maximism only hinders innovation.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:31am

    Re: The Master SEO

    The master, huh? What's you're secret, Dean?

     

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  14.  
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    C.T., Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    Credibility Issues were Recognized

    The opinion is explicit in its recognition of the issues of credibility raised by the changes to Robertson's testimony. The judge noted that she must have been lying during one of the two depositions. However, because this was a jurisdictional issue, the court has to construe all facts in the manner most favorable to the plaintiff.

     

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  15.  
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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    Thank you for proving you don't get it

    the coporate shield only protects the owners/shareholders from on a money side, if they killed some one, the person resposible still goes to jail and if its proved they where told to do x by higher up they go too...

     

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  16.  
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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re:

    if you want to sue the ppl responsible for the current mess, its best to just start with Congress, and work your way down...

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    If he did something wrong, he should be responsible for it.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: Question...

    "1. What was she fired for?"

    I rather suspect the company can't release that information without the possibility of a defamation suit. It's an aspect of firings that has been used to great effect in political campaigns. ("He fired me, he's an evil person.")

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    Re: Well

    Well, there's a reason why I said "corporate decision makers" and not "corporate owners".

    Whether it's civil or criminal, if a real human being makes the decision to do something illegal, that real human being is the one who should be punished for it. The corporation should also be punished financially, but the actual human who made the decision should bear responsibility as well.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Are her statements credible? Hmmm, guess who gives the IRS the best information for tax cheats? Jilted wives, business partners, lovers and fired employees.

    Guess who gives that software piracy group the best leads on who is pirating software? Jilted business partners and fired employees.

    Does she have an axe to grind? Maybe, but that doesn't mean she doesn't know where the bodies are buried.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    "However, because this was a jurisdictional issue, the court has to construe all facts in the manner most favorable to the plaintiff."

    This is nonsense, how can our justice system allow these people to make such a mockery out of justice like this?

     

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  22.  
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    Former Small Corp President, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:18am

    Corp structure is not a barrier for personal suits

    As the President of a now-defunct small corporation who was forced into bankruptcy by a few personal lawsuits that should have been aimed at the corporation, I'm here to tell you that corporate structure is no barrier to having suits filed personally against you with regard to actions taken by a company. The $99-and-I'll-file-your-papers-in-delaware-and-never-talk-to-you-again attorneys will tell you this, but in actual fact the plaintiff just needs a carefully worded complaint.

    IMHO this is all an artifact of corporate greed -- big guys crapping on the small guys, and it's contributing to the death of small business in the US -- but you of course didn't ask for my opinion... :)

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    Seriously, the EMI, RIAA, intellectual property maximists, et al are all making a complete mockery out of justice. They change their stories, contradict themselves, they lie, and our justice system takes their case into consideration while completely ignoring their inconsistencies and lies and such. How can we have such a broken justice system and how can we allow it to so blatantly hinder innovation and progress? This is an outrage!!!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re: Question...

    2. What was she paid by EMI for? They CAN'T have paid her to be a witness, can they? Or are the calling her taking the stand "expert testimony"?

    They should have just called it a "review" and not disclosed that they paid her anything at all.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    if you want to sue the ppl responsible for the current mess, its best to just start with Congress, and work your way down...

    Hate to pop your fantasy bubble there, but gov't officials have legal immunity.

     

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  26.  
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    Pickle Monger, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't credibilty a question for the jury and not for the court? As far as I know, even though the judge is free to recognise the credibility is an issue he normally doesn't have the right to exclude the testimony outright. I believe it's up to the opposing council to raise the issue at trial. Which is probably what EMI is counting on - that Mr. Robertson will want to avoid the expense of the trial and settle with EMI. Evil, underhanded is completely legal. Does anyone know if lying on the deposition has the consequence as lying in court? Is it considered perjury to give false deposition?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re:

    Thank you for proving you don't get it
    the coporate shield only protects the owners/shareholders from on a money side, if they killed some one, the person resposible still goes to jail and if its proved they where told to do x by higher up they go too...


    So who did Michael Robertson kill?
    Thanks for proving that *you* don't get it.

     

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  28.  
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    romeosidvicious (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:00am

    Re:

    Guess who gives that software piracy group the best leads on who is pirating software? Jilted business partners and fired employees. Of course it's been shown that fired employees have also made sure that even legit companies can't pass the BSA muster. Hell I'd lay odd that your home can't pass BSA muster. Are her statements credible? Hmmm, guess who gives the IRS the best information for tax cheats? Jilted wives, business partners, lovers and fired employees. And usually this sort of information includes a deal for the person dropping the dime because in almost all the cases they are legally responsible as well. And if you do some checking you'll find the largest number of false CPS complaints as well as false reports of cheating on taxes are the exact same group. Their information is no more credible than the information received from other sources there just tends to be a lot more of it so even with a lower percentage of accuracy there will be a lot more actual truth. Does she have an axe to grind? Maybe, but that doesn't mean she doesn't know where the bodies are buried. It doesn't mean there are any bodies to begin with. At this point she's offering conflicting testimony. She has lied either now or the first time. No matter when she happened to be telling the truth, if she did at all, then she still cannot be trusted.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:15am

    Re: Well

    That is a criminal issue and in your scenario is presumably made knowingly and willfully by individuals who had direct power to enact the action--they are not protected by a shield.

    EMI is claiming that Robertson "knowingly and willfully" infringed their copyright and "had direct power to enact the action" and thus is "not protected by a shield". So, what was your point again?

    However, say those individuals were lower executives and you were the CEO without knowledge or even just a stockholder that included the company as part of one of your mutual funds; are you saying you should be personally liable for the actions of others within the company?

    Again, EMI says Robertson knew what was going on. Do you have a point at all? So far, you just seem to be agreeing with EMI on everything.

    I presume you are joking, but this is the antithesis of rule of law; its legal if I like you and illegal if I don't.

    No, liking or not liking something is not "the antithesis of rule of law". Ignoring the law *because* of liking or not liking something is. The commenter merely stated what he would or would not like, not that the law should be ignored.

     

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  30.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    so do CEO's >_>

     

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  31.  
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    Ryan, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: Well

    EMI is claiming that Robertson "knowingly and willfully" infringed their copyright and "had direct power to enact the action" and thus is "not protected by a shield". So, what was your point again?

    No, EMI is claiming that Robertson had direct power to enact the action. That's it. Obviously, Robertson did not feel that he was infringing on anything, nor do the majority of us that aren't being contentious to be assholes. Also, I notice that you conveniently ignore the fact that this is not criminal. So what is your contention again?

    Again, EMI says Robertson knew what was going on. Do you have a point at all? So far, you just seem to be agreeing with EMI on everything.

    That was in response to the user that suggested the corporate shield is not beneficial, which is quite obvious with a modicum of reading comprehension. Did you understand anything in my post? So far, you just seem to be bitching for bitching's sake.

    No, liking or not liking something is not "the antithesis of rule of law". Ignoring the law *because* of liking or not liking something is. The commenter merely stated what he would or would not like, not that the law should be ignored.

    Sigh...that is not what I said. Go back and read it again.

     

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  32.  
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    Jesse, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Corporation: An ingenious device for individual profit without individual responsibility. - Loosely quoted from CIV4

    Perhaps, though, it will put some personal responsibility back into the equation with regards to, say, tobacco companies.

     

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  33.  
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    bob, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    If there is anyone who deserves to sued it's Robertson he is an arrogant SOB

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Well

    No, EMI is claiming that Robertson had direct power to enact the action. That's it.

    Then you need to read some more because they are also claiming that he had direct knowledge.

    Obviously, Robertson did not feel that he was infringing on anything,...

    EMI isn't suing Robertson over his "feelings". They're suing him over his actions.

    ...nor do the majority of us that aren't being contentious to be assholes.

    So, who made you the spokesperson for "the majority"? You need a reality check and to get rid of those delusions of grandeur.

    And name calling doesn't make you any more credible.

    Also, I notice that you conveniently ignore the fact that this is not criminal.

    In case you didn't know, criminal complaints aren't handled through private lawsuits, so your "criminal" angle is pretty much irrelevant. That's why I ignored it, even you you seem to be intent on trying to somehow link it to this civil case.

    So what is your contention again?

    That you seemed to have had no point.

    Did you understand anything in my post?

    Yes, and I'm still trying to see any point in it.

    So far, you just seem to be bitching for bitching's sake.

    That pretty much sums up what I thought of *your* post.

    Sigh...that is not what I said. Go back and read it again.

    I did. And that pretty much *is* what you said. What's more, it's right up there for everybody to see, too. Perhaps you should go back and read what you actually wrote instead of what you maybe think you wrote. Too bad Techdirt won't let you go back and change your previous comments, huh?

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: The Master SEO

    A legend in his own mind..

     

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  36.  
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    Scott, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    I worked for Robertson

    I have worked closely with Michael Robertson. All I can say is he's the most unethical person I know. As "evil" as EMI might be, Robertson makes them look like the good guys.

    Look at the ruling. Did you catch the part about Robertson saying it is the customers who are infringing on the copyrights, not his company.

    Before you go around defending Robertson, you should talk to those who have worked with him. I don't know anyone who has worked with him that has much nice to say about him. Trying to make your customers take the fall for his copyright violations is pretty lame.

    Scott

     

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  37.  
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    Sheriton, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    Read the FULL ruling - Robertson is a jerk

    You can get a copy of the full ruling here:

    http://kevincarmony.blogspot.com/2009/10/michael-robertson-throws-mp3tunes.html

    Scott was right. Robertson tossed the MP3tunes users under the bus.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    I presume you are joking, but this is the antithesis of rule of law; its legal if I like you and illegal if I don't.

    He's not joking. He's a TorrentFreak expatriate and this is, unfortunately the kind of juvenile mindset most of the idiots have over there.

     

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  39.  
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    Rob, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    I hope they DO bankrupt Michael Robertson

    That guy is evil. He destroys everything he touches (mp3.com, Lindows, and now MP3tunes). He has to be one of the worst business people out there. Good thing he cashed in on mp3.com (even though most every other investor lost money there). He hasn't done jack squat since.

     

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  40.  
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    Luci, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Question...

    The answer to question 2 is, supposedly "documented legal fees and costs up to $10,000"

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    but the point is that both contradictory stories should be presented to the jury along with the fact she is being paid and how much. When considering her testimony and its validity these things should be taken into account in the jury's decision. However, they will not be. The facts will be constructed in manner most favorable to the plaintiff.

    Furthermore, the fact she contradicted herself and is getting paid to testify should be grounds for a summary judgment and punitive penalties against the plaintiff. But in America the bad guys, those who act most unethically against the public, almost always win. Heck, even if the plaintiff ultimately lose the trial just the litigation and opportunity costs against the defendant is a huge victory for the plaintiff in and of itself.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    Re: I worked for Robertson

    Before you go around defending Robertson, you should talk to those who have worked with him.

    Did you ever stop to think that it may not be a question of defending Robertson personally (or not) but of debating underlying principles? You say he's unethical and makes evil look good? I don't know why, but I'm inclined to believe you and would probably like to see him go down. But that doesn't change the principles involved in the case.

     

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  43.  
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    Luci, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    Jury? In a lawsuit? Lawsuits are not handled by juries, as juries are for criminal trials. Might want to check, but this is a lawsuit.

    As to credibility, the judge does not have to 'construe all facts in the manner most favorable to the plaintiff.' That would negate the ability of the defendant to get a fair and balanced hearing. I'm questioning the judge, myself. WHY does this ex-employee deserve $10,000? What POSSIBLE expenses could she have incurred in giving a second deposition that countered her first AFTER she was fired? Details are very, VERY important, here.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    "as juries are for criminal trials."

    From my understanding, if both parties agree to a jury trial in a civil lawsuit they can be handled by a jury. In a criminal lawsuit involving a felony, however, the defendant gets to decide if s/he wants a judge or a jury to decide. However, this is oversimplified, I don't think for small things like speeding tickets and other infractions you can get a jury as it would be a waste of resources.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 3:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    But to be more technical, it really depends on which state you live in, the nature of the lawsuit, the jurisdiction, etc... which is why it's difficult to make generalities or absolute statements on the matter.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Reread the root comment. Context, it's a good thing.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 4:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Credibility Issues were Recognized

    Jury? In a lawsuit? Lawsuits are not handled by juries, as juries are for criminal trials.

    I really want to know, did someone actually tell you that or did you just make it up all on your own?

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Reread the root comment. Context, it's a good thing.

    Let's see, the root would be this one. Still nothing there about Robertson committing any criminal acts. Yes, context is a good thing. You should try it sometime.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: The Master SEO

    *Sigh* I think you're right.

    I was really hoping to get some better ideas than what I currently get from my SEO company, "Yang And Associates, LLP." They're kinda pricey.

    Oh well. Another lost opportunity. Don't cry for me, Argentina.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anon Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:05pm

    Maybe if some EMI artists feel that EMI's actions are harming their sales, they should sue EMI for that... and while they're at it, sue the CEO and the lawyers at EMI personally too, see how they like it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 8:32am

    "Trying to make your customers take the fall for his copyright violations is pretty lame."

    Isn't that the whole purpose of Techdirt? Its whole argument? Its not Google/Napster etc. etc. fault, its the customers fault?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    Dave (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Re: I hope they DO bankrupt Michael Robertson

    Actually, I think I made a about $900 off MP3.com. Built myself a very nice little PC with that cash, too.

    I have no sympathy for Mr. Robertson, either. He could have done something really great with MP3.com, but instead, he saw zero value in the indie music catalog he amassed and decided to make himself a target for the RIAA, just to be a glory hound. He's the bastard that brought down Camelot, IMHO, and he needs to go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    Dave (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Emily Richards?

    Wait, is this the same Emily Richards that Michael Robertson personally promoted as a singer on MP3.com ten years ago? She was a real favorite of his, if I recall.

    If he turned on her, I'm amazed EMI even had to pay her a dime to get her to change her testimony. Hell hath no fury, man...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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