Court Will Examine The Constitutionality Of RIAA Fines

from the a-big-loss-for-the-RIAA dept

When the RIAA sues people for unauthorized uploading of songs, they usually put a price between $750-per-song to $30,000-per-song in losses. Many have argued that this seems rather excessive -- especially considering how much the songs are actually sold for. A year and a half ago, there was a scholarly paper that examined whether the RIAA's excessive loss claims were unconstitutionally excessive. With that in mind, it wasn't that surprising earlier this year to see one defendant in an RIAA suit question the constitutionality of the $750 number that was trotted out in her case. At the time, we stated that the reasoning used to back this up seemed much weaker than the reasoning in the law review article, but as lawyer Ray Beckerman (who is involved in the case) explained, the filing was limited in length and only needed to serve a specific purpose. It also looks like they were later able to submit either the law review article we mentioned, or other supporting documents. No matter what happened, the judge has now ruled that it is a perfectly legitimate question, and will be included as part of the case. The judge tossed out all of the RIAA's objections, noting that the defendant actually backed up their claim with case law and law review articles. The RIAA, on the other hand, could offer no similar case law to explain why the constitutionality of the fines couldn't be questioned. Of course, who knows how the case will turn out, but should the RIAA lose, it would be pretty damaging for them. They use the threat of the $750/song (or higher) fines as a way to bully people into just settling, rather than fighting -- even if they know they're innocent.

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  1. identicon
    The infamous Joe, 10 Nov 2006 @ 4:03am

    Re: Preventitive

    Right you are Mr. Long, that's pretty much the thought behind most fines, for my example I'll use littering. Usually around $500 but I've seen some pretty crazy ones driving here and there in this country.

    However, let's say you were pulled over near a wadded up TPS Coversheet and the police decided that you threw it away because you're the closest person near it, and then they take a good look at the area and see a few scraps of chewing gum wrapper and a lottery ticket. THEN they look in your car, and see a bunch of Burger King cups, and decide that chances are you were about to throw that away, so they'll fine you for that too.

    Now pretend that it's not the cops, but it's the guy next door, who is rich and has a few dozen lawyers and all the money needed to keep those lawyers on your case until well into the next century.

    Then Mr. Guy Next Door says that he'll settle for a few grand. Most of us Joe's will be so afraid at being fined $720,000 that we'll suck it up and settle.

    It's bullying people who may or may not have commited a crime into settling-- because they've seen enough Law and Order to know that expensive lawyers do to the truth what little bald children in The Matrix do to spoons (or lack thereof) and don't want to take that chance.

    It's just silly, and I'm not exactly holding my breath for it to stop. Eventually we'll get a judge that wanted to be a computer programmer back in college, and knows his ass from a IP address.

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