RIAA Drops Another Case After Lawyer Points Out How Weak The Evidence Is

from the on-and-on-and-on dept

For years, the RIAA has been bullying all sorts of people with lawsuits over file sharing — but the evidence they use has always been weak, at best. In the early years, before most people recognized this, they were forced to settle. But, more recently, lawyers have realized that pointing out how weak the evidence is will often make the RIAA turn and drop the case. They usually try to get out of paying legal fees, but even that’s becoming more difficult. In the latest case (as usual, pointed out by Ray Beckerman) a strong letter pointing out all the problems with the RIAA’s case has resulted in a very quick voluntary dismissal of the case. The lawyer’s letter is absolutely worth reading, with the following being a key segment:

It is well documented that your clients’ reliance on MediaSecurity (an admitted “non-expert;” UMG v. Lidor, East Dist NY No. 1:05-cv-01095-DGT-RML) and its overall method of identifying P2P copyright infringers is wholly unreliable and inadequate. See, e.g., February 23, 2007, deposition of the RIAA’s expert. See also expert witness statement of Prof. Pouwelse and Dr. Sips and amicus curiae brief of the ACLU, Public Citizen, Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Association of Law Libraries, and ACLU Foundation of Oklahoma, in Capitol v. Foster decrying the RIAA’s “driftnet” litigation strategy.

Such facts were known or reasonably should have been known to you and your law firm before suit against Mr. Merchant was filed. Thus, unless you and your office undertook additional independent investigation to identify Mr. Merchant as a person who actually has engaged in copyright infringement by illegal downloading, good faith basis for a Rule 11-compliant probable cause finding consistent with the Williams line of cases cited above simply did not exist to file the action. . . and does not exist now for it to be maintained.

Your clients apparently argue that Mr. Merchant’s failure to respond to “settlement” demands justifies their lawsuit without other basis on which a finding of probable cause to sue could be claimed. You devoted the bulk of your letter advocating that position. As you know, however, that posture is repugnant to both Rule 408, Fed.Rul.Evid. and California Evidence Code ?? 1152 and 1154.

The Evidence Code sections are quite clear: settlement negotiations of all kinds may not be used to prove the validity of any claim or defense. Mr. Merchant has and had no more duty to respond to attempts to “sell” him one of your clients’ boilerplate, non-negotiable $3750 settlements than he has to return cold calls from pushy life insurance salespeople. If your client (and your law firm?) are seeking probable cause shelter in a settlement negotiations house of straw (as suggested by your March 23 letter), all of you should consider the prevailing winds of the Evidence Code before making yourselves too comfortable. Straw will burn.


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Comments on “RIAA Drops Another Case After Lawyer Points Out How Weak The Evidence Is”

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30 Comments
Jon says:

Slightly OT: Legality of downloading torrent of b

With the full understanding that any statements made here are simply statements/opinions and not legal advice.

What is the validity of a DMCA claim of infringement on a torrent download of a broadcast TV show? I must be missing something, but if a show is broadcast over the airwaves meaning it was not pirated and it is being shared via BT in a non-commercial way, doesn’t that fall under fair use? Isn’t it essentially the same as recording the show from the TV and giving it to a friend? The only difference I see here is the media it is being shared on.

comboman says:

Re: Slightly OT: Legality of downloading torrent

The legality of recording over-the-air television for personal use was established in the betamax case almost 30 years ago; however, sharing that recording with a friend is likely going beyond personal use. Distributing it widely over the internet (even without generating a profit) is definitely going beyond personal use.

Casper says:

Re: Re: Slightly OT: Legality of downloading torr

The question is how broad the personal use umbrella really is. What if I wanted to upload a copy of a show to watch while traveling? Just because someone can get to my personal copy, doesn’t mean that I want them to. There are no provisions saying that I must guard the content, just that I can not redistribute it. It was intended to prevent people from profiting from the works of another.

That’s the problem I have with so many of these lawsuits. They target people as if they are a deliberate copyright violator, but there are not provisions for negligence. If the person legitimately did not know that their content was available for other people to download, are they really responsible for the same damages as an intentional redistribution? Sure, they might be responsible of redistribution of a product, but it is not copyright infringement as the copyright was intended to prevent. They are not making money off it and I doubt that the courts will continue to uphold these ridiculous claims much longer.

drakeshadowstone says:

Re: Slightly OT: Legality of downloading torrent

I think that you are right on that score. Both sides are going to argue over this for a long time coming. For most I think, there is no difference between recording a show from the airwaves and loaning the tape to a friend and sharing a torrent. Wait, there is a difference, some corporation isnt getting the share of the money.

Drunken Philosopher says:

Summary for Erv

Erv said:
> Not sure what it says exactly but I like it…..

I’ll try to summarize by paragraph:

1. The people you’re relying on for evidence aren’t experts, and if this goes to trial they’ll be laughed at.

2. So, if that’s all you’ve got, go home.

3. Just because the defendant ignored your ridiculous demands, doesn’t mean he’s admitting guilt.

4. Seriously, just because the defendant ignored you, /doesn’t/ mean he’s admitting guilt. It’s basically the same as hanging up on a telemarketer. By the way, die in a fire.

(Ok, that last sentence might have mildly overstated the original message.)

Davey says:

Gratifying, but...

The only way to stop the RIAA and their kind is to make them hurt a lot more than they do by just losing a case or two. Or even paying their victims’ legal costs. What they are doing amounts to extortion, plain and simple. What will really change the game is when RIAA, its officers and its lawyers are charged with extortion, harassment, and whatever else fertile legal minds can come up with, in civil and criminal court. I don’t understand why the defense lawyers and outfits like the ACLU and EFF aren’t going that next step. I could see disgusted juries awarding huge amounts to the RIAA’s victims.

Colline Sherby says:

RIAA

Does this advise us to ignore any/all communication when challenged by the RIAA, as a means of defence?
I would have preferred to take a much more aggressive stance like the letter by ‘Davey’, and tell them to FO or I’ll sue the RIAA for ‘Extortion’, ‘Racketeering’, and ‘Illegal Harassment’.
Although in my heart I feel that we all should have been donating a small fee to the ‘File Sharing Enterprises’ to reward their enterprise, and help fight these legal issues.

Chris says:

It has come to my attention

To whom it concerns at the RIAA,

In recent years, our records show that you have filed more than 3,000 lawsuits. Unfortunately, you are in violation of the CAN LAWSUITS act which was enacted in an emergency session of congress and slipped into a bill that weakens copyright strength, eliminates the patent, and enhances fair use. Sadly, you now must pay all the legal costs that were forced upon innocent victims and may not file anymore copyright related lawsuits until the year 3000.

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