RIAA, Again, Sues Family Without A Computer

from the legal-eagles dept

Not that they’re breaking any new ground, but the RIAA has again managed to sue a family for file sharing despite the fact that they don’t have a computer (via Broadband Reports). As we’ve pointed out before, cases like this underline the problematic nature of the RIAA’s legal strategy, which amounts to little more than legal bullying, and relies on attempting to trample people’s rights and coercing people into settling, while contorting the law and attempting to contravene the legal system and not to mention perhaps breaking the law itself. Is it any wonder some people think what the RIAA is doing is tantamount to extortion? Apparently suing non-owners of computers is easier than suing dead people, but aren’t all these lawsuits equally frivolous and deserving of some form of punishment? Update: We couldn’t get to the hometown paper of the family being sued this morning, where the story started (presumably it was suffering from the Digg effect), it contains another important tidbit: “Carma Walls said that the family did once own a computer — for about two months. They haven’t had a computer in their home for more than a year, she said.” The woman also says she did download some songs “from Internet sites”, so perhaps the case doesn’t have the sensationalist undertones some might imply. However, the RIAA suit alleges the family continues to use file-sharing programs — which is a little hard now that they don’t have a computer.

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Comments on “RIAA, Again, Sues Family Without A Computer”

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jdw242 says:

nearly as stupid as this:


“Under current law, Section 1201 of the law generally prohibits distributing or trafficking in any software or hardware that can be used to bypass copy-protection devices. (That section already has been used against a Princeton computer science professor, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and a toner cartridge remanufacturer.)

Smith’s measure would expand those civil and criminal restrictions. Instead of merely targeting distribution, the new language says nobody may “make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess” such anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else.”

What about possessing circumvention tools?

Justin says:

Re: nearly as stupid as this:

Yes they are deserving of punishment and please, stop refering to them by their gang alias. They are Sony BMG, Warner Music, Vivendi Universal and EMI.

The ultimate punishment would be for people to STOP BUYING THEIR OVER PRICED, OVER COMPRESSED DRM LADEN PRODUCT. Whether on iTunes or on the store shelf, if it says Sony BMG, Warner Music, Vivendi Universal or EMI, don’t touch it !

Buford J. Shackleford says:

Re: Re: nearly as stupid as this:

Thank you!! You are dead on. I purged my house of anything Sony several years ago and NOTHING with the Sony brandname will enter it again.

I frequently remind all my friends and family members about Sony’s strongarm techniques, not to mention their rootkits, but sometimes its like pulling teeth with non-techies.

Paul says:

Re: Re: nearly as stupid as this:

Your absolutely correct. Stop buying music. The problem here in America is that the majority does not stick together and the minority runs our country. This country has forgotten about the power of the people. Get everyone on the same page and stand and fight. That is what this country was built on. How so many have forgotten.

Christopher says:

Re: nearly as stupid as this:


“Under current law, Section 1201 of the law generally prohibits distributing or trafficking in any software or hardware that can be used to bypass copy-protection devices.”

What a stupid law. Every personal computer on earth with at least a pentium/powerpc processor is able to do that….

I think it would be easier on the RIAA for us to just go back to the middle ages. At least then we wouldn’t all be threats to their multi-billion dollar empire of extortion…

alternatives says:

Once they actually enforce the laws they have


Given the RIAA says putting your CD’s on an iPod is illegal, and you can’t buy Beatle songs on iTunes, Mr. Bush is in violation of the laws the way the RIAA sees things.

If the RIAA is unwilling to sue Mr. Bush, why should common citizens worry?

Anonymous Coward says:


One day those greedy bastards will be documented for what they really are in the history books, as the common people gain more and more access to the technology needed to write, publish, and distribute them. That day is approaching, and the execs are freaking out. I love it. They can claw, spit, and whine all they want, but it’ll still happen.

Amelia says:

Screw the RIAA

Someone needs to have the cojones to stand up for what’s right, and to tell the RIAA to go f— themselves. Why don’t they sue me? I pay for my music, but most of it’s bought through second-hand CD purchases, either on Amazon, Ebay or at second-hand music stores. Effectively, I’m damned legal, but there’s no compensation for the musician or the record label, since it’s a second-hand product. And I copy the music to my IPOD and I burn my own CDs for my personal use. I do buy a fair amount of music now from Itunes. That’s great, because you don’t have to pay for a whole CD when nine of the ten songs SUCK, and all you want is to hear that one good song. We could all send a message to the RIAA by utilizing services like IPOD that let us have reasonable access and use of the music that we buy. Traditional music CD sales will still be in the toilet because the record companies are releasing crap. It’s the inferior quality of the material, my buddies at the RIAA cartel, not the bootleggers who are destroying your profit margins!!!

‘I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.’ – Nathan Hale, American patriot.

Ron says:

How Could RIAA File?

I read the article. It says the lawsuit specifically states that the person who does not have a computer is the one who broke the law. How did they get that person’s name? It can’t be through the ISP; no computer to have an IP address. Seems it can’t be through the street address because the ISP would have had a name associated with the account to which the IP was assigned at the time of the infringement so the name would have been different. Anybody got the feeling that RIAA is simply running their finger down the phone book and stopping at a likely line?

Hamid says:

e: nearly as stupid as this

Theres always another solution … You could just buy Local. There are local stores that sell albums listed by small inde record labels. Maybe we start seeing the content theyre selling as part of the same overall system. How come we want to consume their stuff – but not happy to pay EMI, SBMG etc.

Maybe we need to stop consuming their “music” & look for access directly to people we can pay for … our money goes into their pockets & once & for all – we cut their prehistoric middle men out

Justin says:

Re: e: nearly as stupid as this

There are solutions for the online generation. Here’s one providing uncompressed content with NO DRM to lock you in. PLUS, you get the added bonus of discovering wonderful talent that’s not Sony BMG, Warner Music, Vivendi Universal and EMI a.k.a. RIAA sponsored:


As someone else mentionned, if you must consume their crud, do it where it hurts RIAA and not your purse. Again uncompressed and DRM free:


Don Long (user link) says:

RIAA and the law

Spoken like a righteous, truant schoolboy…

Downloading copyrighted music without paying for it is theft, is it not? Why would the RIAA not vigorously pursue this problem?

Suing someone without a computer doesn’t mean the overall purpose of the RIAA’s struggle is unjust. It is more indicative of a clerical error.

Labeling the RIAA a “bully” for making an error in a fight against theft is a deeply flawed position, to say the least.

–Don Long

Me says:

Re: RIAA and the law

The problem is, Don Long, that RIAA, with the “clerical” error, won’t admit that they are wrong. Once proven wrong, they just keep pushing, and buying their way, right through the courts. And it is a struggle, because people will just tire altogether, like myself, and never buy a damned thing again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RIAA and the law

Labeling the RIAA a “bully” for making an error in a fight against theft is a deeply flawed position, to say the least.

I don’t consider the term bully to be inappropriate, and in fact I consider it to be very lenient. Nor do I consider the RIAA’s action to be an “error”. The original provisions for copyright were to protect authors and inventors to retain exclusive right to their works for a limited period of time, so by forcing musicians to sell out their rights is to to me nothing short of extortion. I consider the RIAA nothing but a “kneebreaker” arm of a music cartel and I see little reason to protect the rights of criminals and thieves regardless of how “legally” they conduct their extortion.

Plus, it’s a well established fact that almost no artists ever make any money off album sales. Buying CDs supports the record labels and the record labels alone – there are other ways to make sure the musicians themselves actually get paid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RIAA and the law

Define your boundaries for theft sir. Say if I wished to play a song that was on my upstairs desktop. A song I legally purchased and archived onto my hard drive. I have my desktop and laptop networked. Would this be theft? Am I not moving one file from one computer onto another, without paying the original artist money? What about blue-tooth headphones? Or for that matter, why stop at music. What about other forms of media? Don’t you see it’s not the method of distribution you conflict, but the lack of payment to the record company, and to a much smaller degree, the artist. But do not companies PAY radio stations to play their songs. Is not the radio company profiting through the broadcast of someones else’s media? Why? Because not all profit is cool hard cash. As the saying goes: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. Sales have gone down, yes, but ask yourself why? Yes, quality has dropped, but something else has changed. MP3 and such are the next jump in technology. Just how when CD’s came out, it was hard to sell a tape. The problem is, the industry is not adapting to this change like they had to others. Perhaps because they know this is one change that will hurt them in the pocket. But should change for the better be stopped just because someone wants more money? Now who sounds like a bully? It’s a simple fix. People still buy CD’s. They like the act of buying something cool looking, the act of going to the store, the act of holding something in their hand. Why not adapt this to the current technological trend. How about a machine in the Music stores, selling music to be directly downloaded onto ones Ipod or other music player. I myself would like to see the record companies go under, for quite frankly there are no longer needed as much. But there is still room for growth, if they can get their greedy heads outside of their collective arses. Good day. 🙂

Downloading copyrighted music without paying for it is theft, is it not? Why would the RIAA not vigorously pursue this problem?>

michael says:

Re: RIAA and the law

“Downloading copyrighted music without paying for it is theft, is it not?”

It is not. Technically it’s copyright infringement, not theft. The RIAA may call it theft, but that doesn’t make it so.

If you were to copy an article from a magazine or the pages of a book for someone to read, would you say that copy had been stolen? Technically you’ve only infringed on the copyright.

Jeremy (user link) says:

Re: RIAA and the law

The problem isn’t the Cause they are fighting for it’s the methods they are using to fight it. They have every right to expect people to pay for their music and video. But they can’t seem to figure out how to find the actual law breakers vs the law abiders. Yes it amounts to a clerical error. But clerical errors happen most often when proper procedures aren’t followed. And the RIAA seems to be having rather a bumper crop of clerical errors lately. And that is the core of the problem.

gregg carpenter says:

Re: RIAA and the law

may he who is with out sin…these folks are greedy and value only the money they can wring out of the system:


their “fight against theft” is nothing more than the lashings of an obese merchant whipping their slaves for daring to pet the cash cow with their grubby hands. When it’s all ones and zeros, and their loss is nothing more than an electronic whisper based on that pattern, your idea of “theft” is the flawed position regardless of how many of the rich agree with you. Their “struggle” is the struggle of the rich to keep their precious money machine extorting money from the mass-media-manipulated masses, and if you can’t see that, if that “flawed position” is too difficult for you to understand it is for one of two reasons: either you benefit from this system, or your ethic is corrupted by an over-inflated sense of self-righteousness.

Thom says:

Re: RIAA and the law

Come on Don – you and I both know that the recording industry has been price fixing CDs, cheating artist out of their revenue by making the artists prove how many units sold et cetera.

If anyone represents thieves, it is the RIAA. Sure – downloading music can be intellectual property theft, but when comparing the RIAA to the average home PC user that downloads unauthorized content, it is like comparing the Mob (RIAA) to the grandma at the grocery store who picks and eats a grape to see if she wants to buy a bunch.

On a side note, I downloaded some Modest Mouse about 4 yrs ago – liked it so much, despite my boycott of the major record labels, I purchased 3 CDs. One of the CDs I paid for was the exact same Cd that I downloaded – I paid for it because I liked it. I never would have paid for it if I hadn’t got to listen to it over time to decide if it was worth owning.

Anyway – the RIAA is a bully. And I bet you work for them or a company that RIAA bullies for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RIAA and the law

Downloading copyrighted music without paying for it is theft, is it not? Why would the RIAA not vigorously pursue this problem? -from Don Long

The problem with your view point is they are using methodology that amounts to a blind man throwning darts at a dart board. They are hopping people will just settle due to their imaginations of what they did or did not do in the past. Do you remember what you looked at on the internet a year ago? Can you tell me a day to day account of your activities? Probably Not.

I think RIAA should be forced to provide full disclosure to each of its victims. Thats not the case because that would eat into their Revenue. Instead they provide very generalistic sopenas to the ISP. Who then sends the users involved a even more vague form letter. I think there is something very wrong with their tactics. Its tone is very extortionistic.

m says:

Re: RIAA and the law

No, it is not a theft. It is an infringement. There is a difference.

I do not approve of infringement, and do not practice it. But that said, the IP stealopolists have the best law that money can buy. Not happy with the current fair use rights stealing DMCA, there are new bills in Congress that will criminalize everyone who owns a computer. Ten years in jail for possession of software that can be used to violate the DMCA. Ten years for attempting (even if failed) to circumvent the DMCA. These are legal clubs which provide a mechanism for the extortion of monies from individuals, somtimes just from those who wish merely to enjoy their legal purchases.

Right now, some stealopolists are basing their suits on someone having a file in a shared directory under Windows. No downloading need have taken place. Convert a track on a CD to an MP3 placed on your own PC,in a shared directory, and now you are fodder for barratry. Now that is theft.

we the people says:


“Downloading copyrighted music without paying for it is theft, is it not? Why would the RIAA not vigorously pursue this problem?….(BLA BLA BLA)…

…Labeling the RIAA a “bully” for making an error in a fight against theft is a deeply flawed position, to say the least.

–Don Long”







Anonymous Coward says:

I agree that the RIAA’s tactics can be asinine, but this time, TechDirt has been caught by hype and bad journalism.

The original article clearly states:

Carma Walls said that the family did once own a computer – for about two months. They haven’t had a computer in their home for more than a year, she said.

During the short time the family had use of a computer, she did download some music from Internet sites, she said. But she had no inkling that the sites she visited or the practice itself were illegal.

“I thought it was like recording songs off the radio like we did when we were kids,” she said.

That information seems to have been removed from the article TechDirt linked to and reported.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So mywebpal.com has got it right and everyone else wrong? Here’s what you omitted to mention about RIAA’s claim from that article:

The lawsuit states, “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Defendant, without the permission or consent of Plaintiffs, has used, AND CONTINUES TO USE, an online media distribution system to download the copyrighted recordings.

Which clerical error is right?

Of course, never mind the fact RIAA has sued dead people, PC illiterate elderly folk, children and disabled low income single mothers. Nevermind the fact every single 18,000 Americans sued and those yet to be sued are considered guilty until proven inncocent which means they must fork over 4200$ or fight their extortion in court at the risk of costing 100K or more.

Duhblow Seven says:

re: Don Long

This is in response to the post by Don Long.

Don- It’s actually nice to see somebody post from the other point of view. We can actually make this an intelligent debate instead of RIAA bashing. I’m going to address some of your points from the “other” point of view.

–Downloading copyrighted music without paying for it is theft, is it not? Why would the RIAA not vigorously pursue this problem?

I think most people here will agree with you, except for one word in your sentence; vigorously. The manner in which the RIAA sues somebody leaves a lot of room for error, much less clerical error. The tactics that are used are shady. The problem is they sue the name on the ISP contract, not the offending party. Identifing the offending party is a difficult, if not impossible task, but suing the

ISP contract holder is only causing problems. They also file the suit in the city of your ISP, which in most cases is thousands of miles from where you live. They file dozens of cases as one suit. They have yet to see ONE case go to court, with most cases settled out of court for thousands of dollars. They files the cases under seal so the only documentation the person who is being sued gets is a vague piece of paper from his ISP. This is all indicative of strong arm shady tactics. RIAA, protect your assests, protect your share holders, protect your artists, protect your salaries (no seriously, this is a capitalist country right?), but do it in a respectable way. I wonder if any family member of an RIAA exec has been sued? I bet somebody has been flagged.

–Suing someone without a computer doesn’t mean the overall purpose of the RIAA’s struggle is unjust. It is more indicative of a clerical error.

This was no clerical error. A clerical error is a wrong address, mis spelled name. This was an error in their broken logic I described above. The person who was sued almost definetly had the ISP account in their name, while the person who actually downloaded copyrighted material never left a paper trail. A more likely scenario would be; let’s say the person who was sued decided to rent a room out of their house. Since the phone (in DSL’s case) or television (in cables case) is in the owners name, when the renter asked for high speed internet it would be an extra service in the owners name. Perhaps the renter didn’t work out and ended up leaving after a month. Months later the owner is being sued by the RIAA. The owner need not have a computer to be sued under these circumstances.

–Labeling the RIAA a “bully” for making an error in a fight against theft is a deeply flawed position, to say the least.

They are not a bully for making a “clerical error” they are a bully because of their shady business tactics.

Don- I look forward to your reply.

Anonymous Coward says:

The original article is from the home-town newspaper of the people being sued.

The RIAA is wrong on the “continue to use” portion of their website, but there is an admission, to a reporter, of downloading music.

Neither is a clerical error. The RIAA left their working in their lawsuit because they’re lazy and obnoxious bastards. The article the TechDirt linked to left out the quote because they wanted to be sensationalist.

matt (user link) says:

riaa? you're trying too hard, looking too hard

remember folks….1: never buy their products and fuel their cash.

2: http://www.piratebay.org, learn it, love it, breathe it. It isn’t in the US, so guess what? free. I wouldn’t support the MPAA anymore than RIAA so they can go find someone else. I watch movies, listen to music, all that. But I’ll never let a dime of my money fund any of them, and yet…oh yeah, piratebay is free!

and guess what else is on there?

windows, microsoft office, other things people are stupid enough to pay for. As if a legitimate licensed copy for home use makes any sense.

shableep says:

It's Inevitable

The music community is changing form. It’s becoming more and more possible for musicians to become individually established. The RIAA’s market control is currently limited to creating and managing mainstream content. Mainstream content is becoming less significant as the online community becomes more developed. The internet has brought previously unseen awareness of a much greater array of artists. This inevitably causes the market to shift. While this new found awareness among the community did benefit sales to large record labels, it has also forced these record labels to give up control of their market. Their standing of financial comfort is at it’s end.

It seems to me that the RIAA is fighting the inevitable, scaring people from accessing the online community that is potentially their demise. They know that these scare tactics work with their target consumer. How often do you hear about the RIAA targeting a shrewd computer user? Not often, if ever. In their eyes, this is just cheap marketing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Open your horizons to the bands that DO use the RI

I know I’m gonna catch a helluva lot of flak for this, but since you dont have /. karma on techdirt, here goes (btw: feel free to flame on me, I never read back and follow up on my techdirt comments anyway)…

I know the RIAA sucks monkey balls and all that, but just because a band uses/supports the RIAA, is that supposed to mean you are supposed to deprive yourself of some seriously asskicking music?

for example: I think that even though they support the RIAA, Tool kicks those monkey balls right offa em – so good that even though they use the RIAA, I dont give a damn, I’m not going to deprive myself of good music just to boycott the RIAA

If you are one of the people saying “Broaden your horizons, ditch the RIAA bands” I think YOU need to broaden your horizons and look past the flak they catch and check out the good bands that do use em’…


Kevin Mesiab (user link) says:

Internet Tapping

What concerns me most is the way the RIAA gets its information to begin with. How did they know anyone downloaded music from a website? They subpeona the records of an ISP to gain information. And who granted that subpeona…

What’s next, forcing ATT to tap our phones to monitor us in case we talk about the best place to download music illegally? Oh, wait….

Crystal says:

Re: ALLofMP3.com

This is really a nice site. Why couldn’t record companies simply make the prices of individual songs or albums affordable like this? That way, the artist and company benefits by actually getting PAID by consumers’ use of such a convenient service and people are getting their songs. I think they just got a bit greedy with all these lawsuits… they should have looked at the big picture and evolved to meet the new demands from the market.

nunya_bidness says:

Re: U2 can do it...

How do you think he got his bucks. clue: profit from selling things. If everybody stole everything there would be no money to donate to charity. If Bono or the others cannot make money they will not play for you, count on it. I think the majority of file “sharing” is just naive people letting less naive people grub music off them. Somebody has to be buying it for the business to exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

The amazing RIAA continues. I’m curious, how long will it take before somebody stands up and says ‘ err. hang on, that aint right’ a judge ? senator ? president ?!

Come on ffs, sueing ppl who dont even have a computer, hell, dead people.

Oh, and fuck books.

And you cant just ‘not buy it’ moron. we like music, whoever destributes it (that part being irrelevant btw, incase it wasnt obvious).

Oh its not bullying, its systematic removal of opposition and fear tactics. remember Hitler ?…

Wheres the system to stop this shit ? grats america.

Rivers (profile) says:

When you get to be my age, there isn’t a lot that surprises you anymore. What many fail to see here, is that RIAA is not really the problem. Its the idiots that get elected to all of the offices that make these rules allowing RIAA to harass people like this, that should be the concern. Some say boycott, some say read a book. When the real answer is VOTE, and get all of your friends to VOTE too. If you want the rules to change, then don’t let people get elected that are aligned with RIAA, and their likes. If you got good ideas, and can change things for the better, then step up, and run for office. No joke, we need good people to run for offices of power, because the only way we can change things is by having the power to bring about change.

Justin says:

Re: The outcomes of the RIAA suits...

I’m sorry if I’m sounding naive, but where can anybody hear about the outcomes of these insane RIAA suits. I’m curious to see if the government is really falling for this bull junk.

There is no outcome. The DMCA has unleashed a magic formula for them, it’s called extortion. Peaple targetted pay the 4200$ settlement fee and they are not ashamed to tell these people they will face an army of lawyers and possibly tens of thousands of dollars in litigation fees if they dare fight back.

I am always right says:

Forgetting something important???

Ok, seriously after reading everyones comments I just have to mention that the music industry is in good shape, no one is hurting for money. Anyone watch MTV cribs? how do they buy multimillion dollar mansions if they are not making money? Most people are right when they say the quality of music is lacking and it’s true, yet some record label just let anyone with something to sing about be millionaires and oh dont forget how every, EVERY, new singer, rapper gets a sign on BONUS…usually a very expansive car? How do you think they pay for those cars?

I buy CDs when I find a good one and thats once every 3-4 years. I have broadband and I download whatever I can…if what I download isn’t good then it gets deleted.

andy chris says:

Whatever RIAA do, there is always new wind blows..

I sometimes visit your blog and read articles.

Recently I checked CNET download.com and found ‘Windows P2P Extension Pack’.

After the installation, walla! NOW YOUR Windows Explorer is your file sharing application!,

What else would you need more?

No registration, No log on, No spyware, bundle whatever the headache NO MORE!

This program gives pure file sharing experience!

This is the future of P2P application for Windows users!

This type of p2p program will apprear more and more and eventually RIAA will surrender sooner or later…

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