Class Action Lawsuit Against The RIAA For 'Stolen' Money?

from the this-won't-end-well dept

A bunch of folks have been submitting the story about how Jammie Thomas’ new lawyer, Kiwi Camara (a Charlie Nesson protege) and Nesson himself are apparently preparing to file a class action lawsuit against the RIAA in an attempt to get back the $100 million plus that they claim the industry “stole” in its settlements. This may be interesting from an academic standpoint (or from a PR/circus standpoint), but I have difficulty believing it will get very far in terms of actually succeeding. I do find the settlements distasteful, and bordering on extortion (“pay up or we sue” is really questionable), but earlier attempts at similar lawsuits haven’t gone very far at all. Still, considering that the RIAA has always insisted that its entire legal campaign was part of a grossly misguided and ultimately self-damaging “PR campaign” perhaps it’s okay that someone is effectively doing the same thing on the other side.

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Comments on “Class Action Lawsuit Against The RIAA For 'Stolen' Money?”

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Rob (profile) says:

I think :Lobo is partially right, I think this is more of a grandstanding sort of maneuver of the best kind, to simply draw attention to the issue. If the general population sees that the RIAA is being accused of extorting money from customers in court, that will stick in their brains. Whether or not it goes any further than that really doesn’t make a bit of difference. This is the sort of thing that Abbie Hoffman was doing in the 60’s, albeit much more civilized (and legal for that matter). I think that these sorts of guerrilla tactics can be very effective in swaying public opinion and I stand wholeheartedly behind this lawsuit, even though it will most likely go down in flames.

Anonymous Coward says:

Missing the big picture

No offense Mike, but I think you’re missing the premise behind Nesson and Camara’s actions. They’re both intelligent people, and I highly doubt that they expect every court action they take to stick.

However, take a look at the accusations that they’re making in both the Jammie Thomas case and the class action lawsuit, and you’ll see that they’re basically forcing the RIAA to defend, in the court of law, the very foundation of their litigation.

First, they have to prove that the settlement letters themselves are constitutional (the point of the $100 million lawsuit).

If they can hold that up, they then have to prove that they actually own the copyright which is supposedly violated (apparently the documents provided in the Thomas case were apparently not certified, which is necessary for usage as court evidence).

Even if they get the proper documents in time (the RIAA lawyers have been quoted saying that it would be difficult and expensive to procure them, so they’re basically scrambling), they still have to deal with the lack of a Private Investigator license for MediaSentry, which could make any incriminating evidence against Thomas impermissible in court.

If a single one of those arguments is validated, then the RIAA has basically lost its teeth (at least, in the Thomas case).

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Missing the big picture

However, take a look at the accusations that they’re making in both the Jammie Thomas case and the class action lawsuit, and you’ll see that they’re basically forcing the RIAA to defend, in the court of law, the very foundation of their litigation.

I disagree. They’re not trying to get the RIAA to defend the *premise* of its litigation strategy — they’re trying to nitpick around the edges to breakdown the litigation on procedural grounds.

I tend to think that distracts from the real issues.

The stuff you describe — the certification, the letters, the investigators licenses — are all procedural nitpicking, rather than anything substantive.

The whole thing seems like a circus rather than a real inquiry into the legal issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Missing the big picture

In any other circumstance, I would agree with you. However, these issues are not purely isolated to a singular case.

Every one of the RIAA’s settlement claims and lawsuits are based on disproportionate damages, using MediaSentry evidence to support claims of infringement (at least, until MediaSentry became discredited).

I have no idea how the RIAA has been with documents in previous court cases, so this one instance could be isolated.

So, while I agree that this does not deal with any of the fundamental legal issues, I disagree that it’s not substantive. From a standpoint of those being pursued by hefty litigation, I would much rather have lawsuits dismissed outright based on nitpicking, rather than have a long, drawn out court case to argue the details of the law.

Especially if I was Jammie Thomas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Missing the big picture

Mr. Masnick aptly observes that counsel for the defendants are trying to “nitpick” and have turned an important legal matter into a “circus”. Even Mr. Beckerman, a longtime and forceful advocate for P2P defendants, has strongly criticized the path being pursued by Messrs. Nesson and Camara for at least the reasons noted by Mr. Masnick.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Missing the big picture

That wholly depends on what you consider important. For a sidelined debater, you see this as derailing the legal issues at hand for minor semantics.

For anyone directly involved in the lawsuits, the important thing is ending the case with a favourable judgment, and quickly. Moreover, for any future (and past) defendants, having a precedent of court cases being dismissed based on poorly obtained evidence and flawed damage claims is far more relevant than knowing you can win after a drawn out lawsuit.

Would it be better if copyright law was changed, and these legal actions were not even possible? Of course. However, it’s simply not a reasonable expectation in the near future.

The outcome from this defense isn’t the copyright reform that I’m sure many are hoping for in the future, but (assuming anything good comes of it) it might be possible to see a stance like the one in Canada, where the attitude is that pursuing infringers is a waste of the legal system’s time.

Yankee Infidel says:

“I do find the settlements distasteful, and bordering on extortion (“pay up or we sue” is really questionable)…”

I too find that such a statement is distasteful, but not because I feel the way you do that the statement is out of line, but because the statement is true as such acts carried out continuously by the MAFIAA’s wiseguys is distasteful and deplorable.

How exactly is their litigation campaign not wholly extortion in the same way that DirecTV went after buyers of smartcard programming devices that actually had a legitimate use by threatening them to either settle for a few grand with little to no evidence or face being dragged kicking and screaming through a long and more costly trial?

It’s the same tactic, the same lack of incriminating evidence, and thus the same “pay up or we will sue” extortion.

Swim says:

RE: Ima Fish 1st Comment

Because they’re sheep.
The lack of action by the majority of “Artist” is akin to them asking daddy for allowance money. Or better yet (since analogies get famously blown out of proportion on this site)

The relationship between the RIAA and their represented Artist’s is the exact relationship a pimp has with his whore’s. “Bitches better have my money.” Nothing more.

bob says:

When It Comes To Questions Of Constitutionality

If you have been paying attention lost of various court decisions have shredded the constitution.
Up to and including the Chrysler Corporation decision that turns a company over to a foreign company partly owned by Iran. Ya got to love that part, taxpayer money going to Iran.
But I digress. The Constitution of the United States has for the most part been put through the shredder. As will be evident be the current nominee to the SCOTUS, this will not stop any time soon.

Mark says:

I think a pivotal thing in this case will be that a) MediaSentry’s “evidence” will be tossed out almost without a doubt — and rightly so .. they DOWNLOADED the tracks from the sharer, which means that they should also be liable of copyright infringement, and b) there are 24 tracks in question. If there is any sort of settlement, it should be for around $24, the price that they would cost to purchase online, and that’s being generous. $10k per track is lame. That’s probably more than they paid to produce the tracks in the first place!

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