RIAA Shakedowns Similar To Big Retailers Shaking Down Suspected Shoplifters

from the not-so-different dept

We've talked in the past about how both DirecTV and the RIAA have used a borderline legal version of a shakedown to get people to pay them money, without them having a chance to defend themselves. The way the process works is simple. They come up with a mere slip of evidence that the person might be guilty, and then send them threatening letters offering not to sue if they merely pay up first. With DirecTV, the company used names of people who had bought smart card writing devices, even though such devices have perfectly legitimate uses beyond pirating satellite TV signals. With the RIAA, obviously, it was through a list of (often questionable) IP addresses. By using this method, many people pay rather than face a lawsuit -- even if they're innocent. They recognize that the cost of a lawsuit is much worse than just paying the settlement charge. In the organized crime world, this is generally known as a shakedown, or if you prefer, extortion. Yet, for some reason, it's legal when these businesses do it.

And, it turns out, the RIAA and DirecTV are not alone in doing so. Perhaps they even learned the practice by watching how big retailers approach shoplifters. Reader Josh sent in a Wall Street Journal article showing how many large retail chain stores are using a very similar process against suspected shoplifters. In the most egregious case, Home Depot detained a guy it thought was stealing drill bits, but dropped the effort after he showed them a receipt. A few weeks later, though, he received a letter demanding $3,000, which was later raised to $6,000. Admittedly, the amount is quite high there as the law firm that handled the case later admitted to a typo in entering the amount -- but the process seems quite similar to the RIAA/DirecTV process. It doesn't matter if the person is guilty or innocent. You just ask them to pay up or threaten them with a lawsuit. The retailers all insist this is a necessary process since shoplifting costs them so much -- but it's hard to see how forcing people to pay up without a chance to defend themselves is ever right, no matter how much shoplifting costs these retailers.

Filed Under: extortion, retailers, shakedowns


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  1. identicon
    LP AC, 23 Feb 2008 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Just pretend to steal things, its

    Our policies as I mentioned above got me my 100% conviction rate. This is why I never performed 'take downs' without having them in LOS.

    One of my all time favorite busts was when serial shoplifting groups went store to store for 5 days hitting multiple computer stores a day. We got a heads up from one of our other stores that they had just been hit and they were going to hit us that night. They were taking (at the time) top of the line geforce II cards and other high dollar peripherals.

    Once we had prepped for them, they hit us and with great speed and accuracy our management team fled the building and trapped the getaway car full of products from all of the other stores they hit. My LP team (we always dressed in plain clothes and looked really grungy) decided to help the guys on the inside pack up their stuff and as we got them to the door, we ran them off to the LP office (door was in the foyer between the internal and external doors) where officers were waiting patiently.

    Since we worked with the local police I made sure that I attended all hearings and appeared in court as a witness on a regular basis. I never lost a case because of this. The reason most of the chain stores can never seem to get a conviction isn't because they can't. It's because they won't. they never go to hearings, or even make an attempt to work with the police. Most store managers think LP is a joke and that they can use their budget to piss away on company parties for the losers that are robbing them blind.

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