Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Patti Santangelo's Teen Son Fights Back With Every Possible Argument Against RIAA Suit

from the throw-as-much-as-you-can-on-the-wall,-see-what-sticks dept

If you follow the stories of lawsuits of people fighting back against the RIAA's "sue everyone" strategy, you're probably well aware of Patti Santangelo. While hardly the first person to fight back against overly broad RIAA lawsuits, she certainly was one of the first to get plenty of attention for it. As we pointed out when her first case came to light, it seemed quite clear that, at the very least, she was perfectly innocent. It may have been her kids or her kids' friends who had done something -- but that shouldn't expose her to legal liability. Eventually, even the RIAA saw that as well, dropping the suit against Patti and suing her kids instead (of course, they only did this after using questionable techniques to dig up private info about her kids). It was a little odd earlier this month to hear that the lawyer for Santangelo's daughter didn't even respond to the lawsuit against her, leading to a default judgment. However, it looks like the Santangelo family has gone to the opposite extreme for son Robert.

Today, 16-year-old Robert Santangelo and his lawyer responded to the RIAA lawsuit and basically tossed up every possible defense they could think of. They accuse the RIAA of damaging Robert's reputation as well as distracting him from school without any actual proof that he did anything wrong. Specifically, they point out that the RIAA has no actual evidence that Robert shared any files with anyone. Then he tries a long list of possible defenses, many of which seem unlikely to hold up: the RIAA supported file sharing before it was against it (huh?), computer makers/software makers didn't make it clear that file sharing could be illegal (ignorance isn't much of a defense), the statute of limitations has already passed, and that all of the songs found on his computer were actually on CDs his sister owned -- suggesting they were legally obtained (which doesn't matter since he's being sued for distribution, not downloading). Then there's the kicker. The suit claims that the RIAA is "engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to defraud the courts of the United States" and are violating anti-trust law by acting collusively "to make extortionate threats." While you can understand the reasoning behind throwing up every defense in the book, you have to wonder if it will hurt his case by not simply focusing on the stronger defenses he has (mainly, the lack of any actual evidence proving he distributed songs). The anti-trust and extortion claims are fun to see, but past attempts at similar claims haven't gotten very far, and it doesn't seem like judges buy that argument. Still, if nothing else, this will be a fun case to follow.

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  • identicon
    thecaptain, 31 Jan 2007 @ 5:10am

    makes sense

    Fight fire with fire...

    ..or nonsense with nonsense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    techguy83, 31 Jan 2007 @ 5:27am


    Maybe if everyone who was sued fought back......

    the RIAA would be a little more hesitant about throwing lawsuits out all over the country.

    Nice to know my submitted story got posted tho :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Greg, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:37am

      Re: Yeah

      I thought Mike submitted it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        techguy83, 1 Feb 2007 @ 5:18am

        Re: Re: Yeah

        I submitted it about 45 minutes before he did. The way the submittal thing works, from what i understand, is that if you submit a story, they look it over and then post their story after reviewing it, so while he did post it, i submitted it for them to look at :)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 31 Jan 2007 @ 5:48am

    Can't blame them

    The RIAA has made quite the reputation of blanket lawsuits in which little to no proof is brought up. They've even gone as far as suing children and the computer illiterate. So now someone is trying to beat them at their own game. Likely to go nowhere but it is pretty ballsy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    _Jon, 31 Jan 2007 @ 5:52am

    Perhaps part of his strategy is to get some public attention.
    A focused lawsuit probably would not have gotten a post here.
    Battles are won in the court of law - but sometimes fought in the public opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 31 Jan 2007 @ 6:01am

    Statue of Liberty Patent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dosquatch, 31 Jan 2007 @ 2:09pm

      Re: Statue of Liberty Patent?

      What if there are countries with clones of our statue of liberty?

      No, no, don't write him off yet - he may have a point. The New York Port Authority has a lovely tourist attraction to which they charge admittance. Everybody likes the attraction, and the NYPA derives a nice income for their effort. Nevermind that the NYPA didn't actually make the attraction - the French artists did - nor do they pay any of the proceeds to the original artists. After all, they're just the silly French, and the NYPA does all of the real leg work, so by the time you get to the bottom of the tally sheet, everything "balances" out to "zero", and there's nothing left for the artists. Go on, check, our accountants assure us the math works.

      So you have that. As time goes on, the NYPA charges more and more for the same old attraction, and the customers begin to get annoyed. And then someone notices that, hey, all we have to do is hop over to Latvia and we can ride for free! It's essentially the same product, or close enough that nobody but the purist one-percenters would notice, so trips to Latvia become really popular.

      So the NYPA nukes Latvia.

      Oh, back off. They rebuild it. It's just that, now, the NYPA is charging for trips to Latvia as well, and you can't go any higher than the statue's knees anymore.

      So now everybody is going to the Ukraine instead, which is offering essentially what Latvia was before being nuked. Then the NYPA nukes them as well. "They're infringing on our product!" cries the NYPA.

      Then Georgia figures out how to put up a "decentralized" statue that cannot be nuked, because it's not in any one place. Frustrated, the NYPA begins nuking anybody who visits Georgia for any reason, whether they saw the statue there or not. In fact, they don't even try to prove that you've seen the statue there, you're nuked just for going, because obviously there's no other reason to go to Georgia....

      Nah, I take it all back. WTF are you talking about, Dorpus?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Spork, 31 Jan 2007 @ 6:08am

    The problem is....

    Chances are the RIAA will have more cash to keep the legal action roling and the targets they've aimed their sights at won't have the money needed to even try to fight. They just need to stretch it out long enough to win.

    Am I wrong in that thinking? I am not a legal expert by any means, but seems I have heard of this tactic before. Bog the defendant down so much that even if they win, they've lost due to all the legal fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Overcast, 31 Jan 2007 @ 6:11am

    Freakin' RIAA suing teenagers..

    Does the RIAA have even the slightest clue of what this does to their already horrible reputation?

    Rumor and harsh words will travel through that community faster than any other, especially on My space and the like.

    If not now, their days are certainly numbered - just wait until this generation hit 25 RIAA... think you got problems now???

    And they can win anything they like in court, I STILL won't buy CD's. I may not download music either - ok, you got me there RIAA, but to say again, I WILL NOT BUY CD's the RIAA backs.

    How long has it been Since Napster? Was that 2001? 6 years.... I haven't purchased a SINGLE CD in 6 years and going strong. Although, I have bought quite a number of DVD's. But I don't think the MPAA is nearly as bad, sure they are no saint, but I've yet to hear about them suing teenagers.

    We'll see.

    And case in point - I own a 4 foot by 3 foot or so CD rack - I have four full shelves filled. Yes - I used to love buying CD's, I can't even name all the ones I had purchased in the past. Have entire collections of some artists and such.

    But you know - really, it's easy to live without :) I've already by and large gotten what I want anyway, I'll deal with it on principle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    nomoremusic, 31 Jan 2007 @ 6:41am

    Just stop buying music CDs from major record companies, hit them where it hurts. It's been 6 years since I bought a music CD and I don't miss it. I buy from AllOfMP3 and feel happy RIAA and the companies it backs are not getting any of my money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    not a complete riaa goon, 31 Jan 2007 @ 6:49am

    the riaa does have a right to it money. at least as it stands now. they aquired the rights to the music, and they have a right to collect on it. just like anyone else. and the riaa is doing it's best to protect it's assetts (or so it thinks)

    and aprently they are doing ok, because of the continued litigation, they must be getting more money than spending. added that cd sales still top the charts for music sales, and cd sales are still increasing. but of course, if you give a man $1, he wants $2 more. same with the RIAA

    but the riaa has used shaddy pratices in controlling its monopoly of the music industry. now it get to use the infamous chair example.

    buying music should be like buying a chair. you own it. if you want to repaint it, you can. if you want to lend it to a friend, you can. if you want to make a copy for yourself, you can. if you want to move it to another room, you can. if you want to modifiy it to be a coffee/end table, you can. if you want to move to another house, you can. if you want to sell it you can. however, you shouldn't have "purchase" the chair again to do any of that.

    the riaa makes it so you have to purchase the music to listen to it, pay to sell it, pay to change formats, pay to let others listen to it, pay to "remix" it for personal use. yeah, this is all for personal use. you shouldn't have to pay for every time you listen to it.

    but then again, that's my opinion,

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Litigation Nation, 31 Jan 2007 @ 7:11am

      Re: The Chair Issue

      The chair analogy doesn't really work in this case. Here's why: a chair degrades as it is used in other forms. For example, you make that chair into a table--now it's not possible for it to go back 100% to its original form. A digital file however, may be copied and shared (theoretically) infinitely without decay.

      However, I do agree that once you own a copy, you should be able to use it however you long as you are not profiting from that use.

      As others have said, the real issue here is that the RIAA needs to figure out a new business model. As music distribution methods have evolved, the RIAA has not. If they do not reinvent the model, they need to develop a file format that (at least until it is cracked) protects their interest.

      I do feel their targeting methods are flawed in many ways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      digital_priest, 31 Jan 2007 @ 7:22am

      Re: the chair example

      I agree that the RIAA is off its rocker and tries to control too many rights, but the chair example has one major flaw. RIAA is not in the business of making chairs, but is in the business of making copies of chairs. So of course it doesn't want you making free copies of chairs to share with friends.

      And I think we would have few problems with paying a fair price for copies of good music, but what makes us irate is the inability to move the chair to another room, give the chair away or sell it, buy two chairs/saw them apart/build them into a cool coffee table/and sell it for whatever price we can get for it or give it away as a christmas present.

      The whole thing is out of control and they will eventually be paying dearly for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    not a complete riaa goon, 31 Jan 2007 @ 7:30am

    update to chair

    instead of the chair builder, it's the chair wareshouse that sells the chair. they get the carpenter to make the original chair, or plans for the chair, then CW will replicate the chair and sell through the Manf. direct, or outlet stores and such.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ScytheNoire, 31 Jan 2007 @ 7:45am

    how the RIAA and MPAA haven't been sued yet by the DOJ for racketeering is beyond me. what do corporations have to do to get sued? i mean, if the RIAA and MPAA are not corporate mafia's, then i have no clue what would be. they have the world's largest monopoly, one that not even Microsoft could come close to. wish the DOJ would just sue them and prevent companies like the RIAA and MPAA from even existing. then let the individual labels sue the individuals. if you think people hate Sony now, wait until they start suing every one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      thinlizzy151, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:00am

      RIAA racketeering

      In case you haven't noticed, we live in a corporate oligarchy. The big corporations get to do whatever it is they want because we have the best govt that money can buy. The RIAA should get charged with racketeering, but they never will. Instead you have schoolkids being propagandized about the terrible evils of P2P file-sharing, but no discussion about an alternative POV gets thrown in. $$$ conquers all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nick D (profile), 31 Jan 2007 @ 8:29am

    He should try the "17th Century French Button-Makers defense." You look dumb when you use law to defend your broken/dying business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cb, 31 Jan 2007 @ 8:33am

    Sounds like child abuse to me.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jokerscool, 31 Jan 2007 @ 8:33am

    Hit m where it hurts $$$

    7 years and counting..........

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scate, 31 Jan 2007 @ 8:34am

    Don't underestimate the shotgun defense

    I wouldn't be so quick to condemn the response by Robert Santangelo as being frivolous just because it is comprehensive. Multiple defenses are stock in trade for civil suits and each defense forces the RIAA to respond separately. Also, be careful about condemning defenses because they seem flimsy, such as "the RIAA supported file sharing before it was against it." There ares certain legal concepts that can prohibit a company from asserting one position to a court and then asserting the opposite position to another. There are a lot of nuances to law that a lay person (such as myself) won't necessarily see without some further explanation. Although I don't think one should have to be a lawyer to comment on legal cases, I do think you have to be careful in cavalierly commenting on the merit of the defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MacTechBri, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:02am

    Kinda sounds like they're trying to set several precendents, so that if it applies, it applies to all. And makes it easier for the next guy. I'm a computer guy, not an attorney, but it seems like earlier court cases get brought up and used for current issues. I think. Just my thought on it.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KarmasAgent, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:04am

    the nature of the game and the way to win...

    I agree - buy no more CDs. I cut out my CD shopping habit in 2002, have received a few CDs as gifts since, but have not bought one.

    RIAA shrugs and says it only hurts the artists to not buy their music.

    WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. Buy the music off of and use the money saved TO GO SEE THE ARTISTS LIVE!!.

    I've been able to sustain a minimum of 10 concerts a year on the same money I would have spent on CDs. That is taking into account the money I *would* be spending on

    The RIAA is scrambling like a rat on a sinking ship. The problem with their lawsuit tactic is that they can single out individuals and force them to fight one on one, what needs to happen is the ACLU or some other group needs to file a class action suit on the behalf of people targeted by the RIAA (i.e. - anyone who a) owns a computer w/ an Internet connection AND/OR b) any music lover. They are defending an economic model that is wrong to the core and they know it. That's why they fight so hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JC, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:05am

    this is all crazy

    The RIAA needs to realize something. There will always be people buying CDs and there will always be people downloading music through various online sites. Thats not going away anytime soon. The bottom line is that people enjoy music and until the day comes (i hope it never does) that people don't enjoy music, there will always be people willing to purchase it. The very act of trading mp3's or CDs with friends (or strangers via the internet) does not and will not hurt the music industry. After all, how many bands do you like now that you wouldn't if you had not heard it in your buddy's cd player? How many times has someone said "hey, you gotta check out this band I'm listening to?" Trading music is essentially free, word-of-mouth advertising for them. Their product is reaching a new audience in a way no corporation could reproduce via modern advertising techniques. The RIAA should have more interest in relaxing their choke-hold on "fair use" policies as they would benefit from an expanded market, more open-minded consumers, and advertising they can't buy anywhere. I understand that they want to make money -- that goes without saying. But until considerable research proves that they will lose money through relaxing their policy, or until people stop buying music (hah!), cut the BS and let me do what I want with the music I buy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NoverNetSBandit, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:19am

    hit them where it hurts

    The last cd i purchased was in 1996 it was a local band in mn. I have used irc and other means for years to find my music needs. I dont beleave that the RIAA can possible go after a child for something they cant prove. When im online i use a proxy server and to mask that my cable company has no idea i even excist on there system but i insure you this that i wont buy a music cd untell the riaa goes to hell!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DKP, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:27am


    A fund should be set up to help pay the legal fees of the individuals that are fighting the Riaa if lets say anyone could afford to keep going I wonder what would happen to these lawsuits then

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reverend Davidius, 31 Jan 2007 @ 9:47am

    Campus Downloads

    dood, this video is funny. it's about the evils of downloading

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, 31 Jan 2007 @ 10:27am

    Economic model

    The RIAA and the music companies need to understand disruptive technology -- it simply changes the economic model. File sharing and MP3 downloads have probably cut music sales, but for a different reason: I can really listen to a band before buying an entire album. An old example is Katrina and the Waves. Their single "Walkin' On Sunshine" is great, lots of airplay, a zillion different movie soundtracks use it, commercials, etc. The rest of the album sucked horribly.

    A new group gets thoroughly reviewed by a wide audience, and their albums get sold because the entire album is good, or at least doesn't suck.

    RIAA and record labels want to be able to sell an entire album based on one song. They also no longer add value through promotion and distribution -- these can be "viral" and direct from performer to consumer.

    So, they are trying to turn back a disruptive technology (Internet) through the courts, instead of embracing and restructuring to use it profitably.

    As has been pointed out elsewhere -- none of the leading horse-drawn wagon makers became a player in auto manufacturing.

    RIAA, MPAA, et al can adapt or become irrelevant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    8Ball, 31 Jan 2007 @ 2:29pm


    I would defend myself, when in court i would take in the CD with whom i purchased it. I would then state to them, "could you please show me any were on this label were it states that by making this purchase you have purchased a rite to lease this CD"?
    This is like buying a car, but you can not sell it to anyone unless you pay the manufacturer their cut first. Or you may not sell your computer until you pay IE: Dell first, or your pair of Nike sneakers unless you pay Nike first.
    They need to clarify better to "Lease" or "Own" your CD.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    messageinAWyre, 31 Jan 2007 @ 4:58pm

    RIAA....its time

    These issues with RIAA will never be cleared up. How many years has this been going on? Will it ever stop? Who will stop it? After this past year of tragedies I finally have had enough of Corporate and Gov BS!!! Anyone else to that point too? I have decided that really the only way to deal with RIAA is to beat them at their own game.
    All RIAA "spys" hear me now, we have begun our first phase of destroying everything you stand for.
    "We know what your doing and how your getting your information. We know what has been said inside the company and we also can prove everything."
    To most of you, you may not get what I'm saying, but you will in the coming months.

    Mitch Bainwol & Cary Sherman are at the top of the list. We have seen the documents and are going to be releasing them to the public to start the wave of decent for RIAA.

    Everyone sit back and enjoy the ride.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 31 Jan 2007 @ 5:06pm

    few points

    #23: mike wrote it up into a story, but there is a link for a place to submit items you think are relevant.

    #27 They would point to the bit which says "all rights reserved" nad tell you to pay up. THe right of first slae, though, rthey might have trouble with that.

    Dorpus, is that post on the wrong thread, missing the crucial point, or just waiting for someone else to figure out WTF you were on about and make a funny analogy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill, 1 Feb 2007 @ 5:21am

    RIAA totally understands disruptive tech

    These lawsuits that seem so crazy actually serve their purpose. The publicity is what the RIAA is after. So many people hear about these cases and talk about them that there is a general fear of being sued by the RIAA. That's what keeps them in business. For all the people who say "I'll never buy another CD" there are plenty of others who will and that keeps the RIAA in business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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