Court Awards Wrongly Sued Woman Legal Fees From The RIAA; Calls Lawsuits Frivolous And Unreasonable

from the indeed dept

Slowly, but surely, the courts are figuring out that there are some problems with the RIAA’s legal strategy of suing thousands upon thousands of people based solely on an IP address where they think infringing material is available. There have been a number of cases lately where the judge has tossed out the case on the flimsy evidence — but all too often the judges then turn down requests by those who were wrongfully sued to have the RIAA reimburse them for attorney’s fees. However, in the latest case, it appears that the judge has taken that next step and told the RIAA it needs to pay up for attorney’s fees as well, noting that these lawsuits based only on an IP address are “frivolous and unreasonable.” The judge also noted that it was completely unfair to put liability on “an Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from a kazoo.” The judge found that the “settlement offers” the RIAA puts forth offer no real way to contest the charges without going to court, and found that such a system does “not advance the aims of the Copyright Act.” Indeed.

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Comments on “Court Awards Wrongly Sued Woman Legal Fees From The RIAA; Calls Lawsuits Frivolous And Unreasonable”

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scate says:

The decision is a favorable one, but the court did not actually call the the RIAA’s suit frivolous. The EFF press release said the court found the suit veered towards frivolousness not that the court found it actually was. In court these semantics matter a great deal.

Read the actual order order for yourself.

The doesn’t know a “Kazaa from a kazoo” quote was actually the judge quoting from a different case.

The Techdirt posting is a tad sloppy on the facts. In these cases, the actual and exact facts of the cases and the court decisions are very important and shouldn’t be mischaracterized through lazy reporting.

LeoH8ter says:

Re: This is BIG news, Leo will have a heyday with

Leo Laporte is a drunk. He got canned from the G4 buyout because he’s a drunk. I assume you have watched his older shows? He’s really toned it down since then, but sorry, I don’t consider him a good source of tech news when he’s more interested in the bottle.

Syddlee says:

Re: Re: This is BIG news, Leo will have a heyday w

Bear in mind I am not a huge Leo fan either, particularly from his early days with zdtv. Given that I say poo poo to you. You have no proof of his drinking or the reason his show was taken from g4. Your comments are unfounded and possibly slander. Please take your hate to other places where it might be more appreciated.

Buzz (profile) says:


This is good news indeed. I actually have to thank Techdirt and its readers (through their posted comments) for helping me see the light on these issues. I used to be a law nazi. I’d go all out on anyone who displayed even a hint of piracy. I used to believe that anyone who obtained a song through the Internet was evil. Then I realized how faulty the system was and how stupid the RIAA is for not adjusting to the modern times. Welcome to 2007, RIAA.

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

lawsuit accountability

why is there no accountability in the legal system?
this is what has been purposed multiple times to help prevent frivilous lawsuits:

if someone files a lawsuit, and it is deemed frivilous, and fails, then the person who sues not only owes all legal fee’s, but also the amount they were trying to sue for.
this would really cut down on time wasting lawsuits.

like the woman who sued for a finger in her Wendy’s chili who had sued many other companies, she would be the one owing millions to Wendy’s.
and when the RIAA filed all these suits, they would end up owing the hundreads of thousands to their victims.

there needs to be lawsuit accountability in America to stop the wasting of court time. if people knew that if their ass lost and it was deemed frivilous, because your dumb ass didn’t know coffee was hot (yes, i know she won), then you should end up owing money for wasting every one’s time.

Buru says:

The RIAA’s efforts against file sharing are soon going to be a thing of the past with all of these new softwares that offer ENCRYPTED exchanges. Look at GigaTribe for instance ( ), their free software lets users exchange entire folders of albums in a few easy clicks, and not even the ISPs can identify what’s being exchanged.

The music model is changing rapidly, and consumers and small/medium artists are going to be the winners.

leaglebob says:

Its the LAW that needs to Change

Courts enforce the “Law.” The Law is made by legislative bodies. These bodies are populated by people who need money to stay in office. The RIAA has money and gives money to these people. The Law favors the RIAA in ways not contemplated within the “original” purpose of copyright law, but thats what we have and no changes to same are on the horizon.

Take no comfort. This suit will only teach the RIAA how to file better lawsuits. Whats needed is a change in the law to recognize fair use rights and the illegitimite usurpation of copyright protection by those who don’t create the original works.

We live in a “capitalistic” society, not an artistic one. And so it goes. ///// Bobbo.

Iceman says:

Frivolous & completely unfair to put liability on “an Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from a kazoo.”

Could not have said it better…

There is a difference between a person who is knowingly and willfully copyright infringing and some poor parent who’s kids are file sharing music between themselves or others…if no profit can be shown as a result of this or substantial loss then it is up to the RIAA to figure out a different way to distrubute music so it cannot be pirated….to try to stop it now as is is like trying to put a finger in when all the causeways are open full blast…fruitless and a waste of court time and resourses…make them fix they’re own “Technology” that they created….don’t try to make the courts fix it….they are for dealing out justice not comptuer software designers or record company producers…this is they’re problem.

That Guy says:

To ScytheNoire:

Yes there should be lawsuit accountability but get your facts straight on the coffee suit. I believe you are referring to the old lady that burnt herself with McDonald’s coffee. If you took the time to read the case (quite interesting) you would know McDonald’s had an internal study that showed it would cost them less to pay off anyone that got burnt from there hot coffee in lew of replacing all of their coffee machines in every restaurant. It was proven that once the coffee was made it was to hot for human consumption. Once again corporate America is just begging for these types of lawsuits. One last thing on the lawsuit her damages payment was not that large, it was the punitive damages that up’d the total well into the millions.

As for the RIAA and hopefully MPAA they are finagling be assigned judges that want to sit on the bench for another term, these are elected officials. They have know there suits carry no merit which is why I think they offer these quick settlements. Watch now there will be more suits against the dirt poor. After that tactic wears out we will see a whole need type of attorney add on the local yellow pages. “Been sued by the RIAA or MPAA, call me now we guarantee you justice (and money)” lol.

I will agree with the piss poor reporting on the article as well. If you read the actual order as listed above you will see the guy writing the article either got way to excited and wanted to be the first to report the victory or he purposefully exaggerated the truth to make a better article. All in all the reports need to make sure they don’t play lawyer and just give us the facts!!!!

Clark Cox (profile) says:

Re: To ScytheNoire:

For good coffee, the minimum temperature while brewing is supposed to be about 200°F, which is certainly hot enough to cause third degree burns after a couple of seconds of exposure. It is simply common sense that coffee can cause burns.

To blame a company for making coffee hot enough to cause burns would be like blaming a stove manufacturer for making a device that could cause burns.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: To ScytheNoire:

The only reason the woman won the coffee case was because it actually saw a jury. The judge should have thrown it out like the judges before him with similar cases.

Starbucks serves coffee that is just as hot; today.

McDonalds had warnings on the cups.

Coffee is supposed to be that hot.

Ladders cost 10 – 30% more because of bullshit litigation. Do you want your coffee to suddenly cost 10 – 30% more because some idiots can’t hold onto the cup?

John (user link) says:


I can’t believe it….is the system actually going to change or do we just have one rogue judge out there. I find it sickening that we always claim to have the best legal system in the world when normal people can’t even afford to defend themselves against people with money. We should give 10% of RIAA income to the public defenders so that they make more money.


SmarterThanDumbasses says:

Re: Re:

What moronic ass-hat puts a “hot” beverage in their lap while driving? Even a MONKEY knows better!
She deserved everything she got, EXCEPT the judgement in her favour.

By your logic, if some idiot shoves a broom-handle up their ass, then it’s the broom manufacturers fault for not putting on a label that specifically says “Do not Insert Into Anus”.

It’s these idiots who Evolution should have weeded out centuries ago that are to blame for frivolous litigation!

scate says:

Response to OT post by AC:

“It is a myth that the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit was not frivolous.”

Hmm…do you really mean that double negative? I’ll chime in. The McDonald’s coffee lawsuit was meritorious and not frivolous.

McDonald’s already had multiple reports of burns. The coffee was purposely prepared and served at an undrinkably hot at 180 degrees so that it would stay hot longer. (180 degrees can cause instant scalding burns.) And it was handed in flimsy cups to drive through customers. Given these undisputed facts, it was completely foreseeable that customers would get burned.

The elderly woman who eventually sued purchased coffee at a drive through. It spilled. She got 3d degree burns down to her bones and had to have skin grafts. She initially asked (not sued) McDonalds to pay her medical expenses of something like $10,000. They refused. Then she sued them.

She won. The million dollar plus award was created by the jury as the equivalent of three days of coffee profits as punitive damages to encourage McDonalds not to be so egregiously negligent in the future. A judge later reduced the award to less than a million.

So, not frivolous. In fact, this is a good example of a consumer protection suit done right that has been spun by the right wingers and corporations who are afraid of the idea of corporate responsibility.

tom joad says:

In Yo Face Suckas ... Keep That Torrent Runnin

Part of the problem for the RIAA is the lengthiness of the whole process in getting an IP, requesting personal information on the account using the IP from an ISP, the ISP verifying it is in its own legal rights to share that personal information, and then the RIAA filing suit against the account owner. In that time, there’s no way to prove who exactly was at the computer sharing digital content. Now, if that process was a quick phone call, they could potentially have police knocking on people’s doors. And well, I just don’t see that as a priority of most precincts in America in comparison to other crimes, homicides, murders, etc.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

McDonalds using a paper cup was asking for trouble: an in-stor ecustomer with shakey hands could have real problems, and there is also the problem of the leakey cup (there’s pften a few in a batch), which woul dbe dangerous if it dripped. also, even i f you put the coffee in the holder, but got side-swiped pulling out of the drive-through (bound to happen sooner or later), then hey, it goes all over you. It would also have made business sense to make the coffee cooler, since htne people would have drunk it faster in store and so bought more.

The police might not be as sensible as you thjink with regards to priorities.

scate says:


The self-proclaimed, ironically monikered “SmarterThanDumbasses” writes:

“What moronic ass-hat puts a “hot” beverage in their lap while driving? Even a MONKEY knows better!
She deserved everything she got”

Your comments really speak to your own values or lack thereof more than anything else.

I’d say that a multinational corporation with multiple reports of burned customers would know better than to continue handing flimsy cups of scalding, 180 degree liquids that can cause instant sever burns to customers sitting in cars. McDonalds made the corporate decision, knowingly IMO, that they would rather burn some customers than reduce the temperature of their coffee to a safer and drinkable temperature.

You, however, “SmarterThanDumbasses” think that McDonalds is the victim rather than the elderly burn patient.

devlindark says:

McDonalds is totally at fault for doing what all companies do, they see a problem and they say well we could fix it really easy and have no risk to our customers and to ourselves, instead they say screw it let’m burn the majority won’t sue, don’t know how, or we can just bury them with our legal team. so the judgement was justified due their gross negligence because they knew and did nothing.

Now if she sued because she got fat eating there 3 times a day then I would have a problem with that!!!!

captain says:

Why have RIAA/MPAA/etc. set the tone?

RIAA/MPAA/etc. just want their cake (our cake, your cake, everyone else’s cake…) and to eat it too. and maybe they, under duress, give the leftover crumbs and frosting covered trash to the actual artists who created these works, about which this stink ostensibly is….

If this were really about not paying for *rights to copyrighted works* then why won’t they replace a broken CD, for which the rights to the data have already been paid, at the cost of the media, mere pennies if that?

Nope, they insist that we buy another full copy. It is all about perceived profits, fear of not getting them, and greed. I just have to call bullshit on this whole thing.

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

McDonald's Coffee

I actually didn’t know all the details of the McDonald’s lawsuit, but in the common media, it’s often talked about like it was frivilous. But if McDonald’s knew their coffee was too hot and decided to avoid fixing the problem because it cost less to pay off people hurt, then yes, they were in the wrong. It’s no different from any company knowing they are causing harm and not doing anything to change it.

So I guess the finger in the Wendy’s chili would be a better example, since that was frivilous and a setup.
Not to mention just disgusting.

scate says:


AC writes:

“The only reason the woman won the coffee case was because it actually saw a jury.”

She won on the merits. You have not provided evidence to the contrary or rebutted the facts of the case.

“Starbucks serves coffee that is just as hot; today.”

Starbucks in not primarily a drive through business. If Starbucks starts burning their customers through negligence then they may also loose a meritorious lawsuit–as did McDonalds.

“McDonalds had warnings on the cups.”

Some idiot could put warnings on bullets, but that wouldn’t really help people avoid getting shot. Putting a warning on the flimsy cup of scalding liquid is much the same thing–too little, too late.

“Coffee is supposed to be that hot.”

Says who? Brewing temperature and serving temperature are not the same thing. Furthermore, it is negligent to hand people a flimsy cup of scalding liquid through their driver side window no matter what temperature you might serve it at in a sit down environment. You wouldn’t serve an iron sizzle platter to drive through customers even though sizzle platters are “supposed to be that hot.”

“Ladders cost 10 – 30% more because of bullshit litigation.”

Or are ladders much, much safer because of litigation? You fail to cite a source for your allegation nor proof that the litigation, if any, was meritless.

“Do you want your coffee to suddenly cost 10 – 30% more because some idiots can’t hold onto the cup?”

False Dichotomy. McDonalds knew before the lawsuit, and before the elderly woman recieved 3d degree burns, that their coffee was burning customers. McDonalds weighed their finances and decided, in essence, to keep burning their customers rather than reduce the temperature of their coffee to a safer level. The lawsuit was the fault of McDonalds, not the burn victim. They had the power to prevent the situation that caused it but chose not to for economic reasons. Then, even after the woman was burned, they could have just paid her hospital expenses for skin grafts. It was only after they refused to pay her direct costs from the 3d degree burns that she had to sue them.

Don’t blame the victim. (Hint, the victim is not the multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation who chose to burn their customers instead of reducing the temperature of their coffee.)

This post–and all of my posts–represents my opinion.

mrpete says:

drinking and driving.

On the McDonalds case…

1) McD’s should’ve reduced the temperature of their coffee far sooner. They deserved to be sued.

2) Drinking coffe whilst you are driving is stupid and irresponsible. If you spill it and burn yourself you’ve no-one to blame but yourself. Maybe there’d be fewer lawsuits in the US (and icreasingly the UK) if people were told to act like the adults they supposedly are.

The only reason this case had any merit was the excessive temperature of the coffee.

scate says:

mrpete writes:

“2) Drinking coffe whilst you are driving is stupid and irresponsible.”

Drinking or eating foods that spill and make a mess–hot or cold–is a significant cause of car accidents. However, in this case the woman burned was the passenger. The car was stopped at the time when the lid came off and the coffee spilled in her lap.

“Maybe there’d be fewer lawsuits in the US (and icreasingly the UK) if people were told to act like the adults they supposedly are.”

Perhaps. But, perhaps corporations would do fewer things worthy of lawsuits if they acted like responsible people rather than amoral money maximizing machines–which is essentially what publicly owned corporations are. (Note that “amoral” means “without morals” not evil or immoral.)

Ambrose Bierce described a corporation as “An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.” A corporation is designed to make money not to be good or “moral.” And laws only matter to the extent the corporation may be caught and have to pay fines. CEO’s rarely go to jail–Enron and Health South are rare exceptions that prove the rule.

Since the only stimulus corporations respond to is financial, it is important that individuals be able to sue them for punitive damages when corporations do illegal harm. Only when their is sufficient threat of financial harm do corporations actually change their behavior.

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