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RIAA Grinds Down Individuals in the Courtroom 680

Posted by michael
from the this-isn't-a-court-of-justice,-son,-this-is-a-court-of-law dept.
Iphtashu Fitz writes "The Associated Press recently reviewed many of the copyright infringement lawsuits that the RIAA filed against individuals charged with illegally sharing songs on P2P networks. According to the article over 800 of the targeted individuals have settled for approx. $3000 in fines. One man in California had to refinance his house to pay his $11,000 settlement. Many of the defendants are unwilling to face the possibility of even higher fines by fighting the suits in court despite the fact that it could resolve important questions about copyrights and the industry's methods for tracing illegal downloads. It seems that even some of the judges presiding over these cases question the RIAA's tactics. 'I've never had a situation like this before, where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side,' said U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner, who blocked the movement of a number of these cases in her courtroom for months. She wanted 'to make sure that no one, frankly, is being ground up.'"
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RIAA Grinds Down Individuals in the Courtroom

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  • by secolactico (519805) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:18AM (#10031947) Journal
    Let me re-state what I've said before: If you do not agree with what RIAA is doing, stop supporting it. Sadly, this means stop supporting artists affiliated to it. Quit cold turkey. Do not buy their CDs. Do not attend their concerts. Do not request their songs on the radio. And do not download/share their songs on the Internet.

    Go on and protest their actions. The louder, the better. But stop supporting them, or your cries will fall on deaf ears.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:29AM (#10031992)
      Exactly. I am vociferously opposed to copyright law, and hold that there should be a "doctrine of first communication" that prevents anyone preventing you passing on information.

      But fact of the matter is there are now absurd huge quantities of _really good_ stuff available perfectly legally for free on-line, often from bands in your locality that you can toddle on to live shows for too - there's simply no need to support the old monopolies by continuing to give them mindshare. This is a bit like with software - software piracy _helps_ microsoft and autodesk, because they stay as the "standard". Recirculating the crap that the old monopolies put out preserves their mindshare.

      Stop listening to crap, download http://irate.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] and start rating. Pretty soon, you'll have a better and more novel and varied music collection than the old companies could hope to provide.

      • by dotwaffle (610149) <slashdot AT walster DOT org> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:58AM (#10032549) Homepage
        I found irate today, and have fallen in love with it. There are three things wrong with it though:

        1) There appears to be no main site where you can submit possible new download places, such as MachinaeSupremacy.com (hint hint)

        2) There is no "more from this author" button, just a search that types the artist and title in Google. When I listened to Beth Quist I immediately wanted to buy her album, but couldn't, unless I did research.

        3) Not really irate's fault, but I want the music on CD as well as a download. Fair enough, you can burn your own etc, but it would be nice if they could send you a CD for an extra GBP 5 (about $10) or something. Even if it is a CD-R with a printed cover and track list... Or have I missed the point?

        So essentially, irate radio is a really good idea, needs a lot of work on the interface etc, preferably a Winamp plugin or something, and needs our support!

        BTW, Beth Quist (one of the MP3's I downloaded was from her) is on Magnatune (the non-evil people). If we could only get message out to kids about Magnatune, as I think it's a good lesson to be learnt. The "Why I set up Magnatune" section made me not want to buy any more commercial CD's that have touched the hands of the RIAA ever again...
      • by Morgaine (4316) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @12:28PM (#10032716)
        Stop listening to crap ...

        That would be a perfectly viable way of ending the reign of RIAA-led corporate terrorism in music, if a majority of music listeners were to join in and stop listening to the crap. As things stand though, 99% of the audience consists of musical sheep, ie. people who despite their good intentions follow exactly the instructions of the music industry in deciding what music is "good" at any given time. The vast majority simply don't realize what's being done to them. Brainwashing is not too strong a term.

        It's pretty inevitable. Unless you shut yourself off totally from the media, you get enveloped in the utterly pervasive music machine's output of not just music and video, but celebrity, hype and buzz. You literally cannot avoid it, it's as sticky as napalm. Face it, there is no future in asking the 99% of musically non-militant people to cut themselves off from the media, not even to enter the shopping malls where that sticky music is playing. The brainwashing is everywhere.

        That public rating idea is great, and if it were to catch on then it might even improve the quality of "big business music" through perceived audience pressure. But meanwhile, music downloaders are being crucified, and leaving them to it in the hope that a long-term strategy might prevail is less than charitable. Some sort of direct legal action or preventative technical solution offers better prospects for the short term.
        • by RLiegh (247921) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @01:53PM (#10033183) Homepage Journal
          The problem being that practically speaking; you cannot shut yourself off from the media. Even if, as I do, you

          Don't watch tv
          Don't listen to the radio
          Only listen to music you, yourself like (RIAA or otherwise)
          Only get your news from NPR

          You are _still_ bombared with crap whenever you go into your local store and when you go to work. God help you if you carpool.
      • by AndyChrist (161262) <andy_christ@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @12:51PM (#10032819) Homepage
        Unless you live in a major city, chances are local music mostly sucks, and what doesn't won't be a style you enjoy.

        • Unless you live in a major city, chances are local music mostly sucks, and what doesn't won't be a style you enjoy.

          While this might seem intuitively correct, I have found it to be largely untrue. Large populations centers have no real advantage when it comes to producing quality music. In fact, much development of style - "new sounds" - comes from rural areas and small towns. The big-city bands tend to re-hash existing styles and sounds, in my experience. There are exceptions, of course, but just be

      • Please, have you ever tried to USE iRate? The program is terrible.

        The MacOS GUI (at least, I don't have Windows or Linux) is abysmally terrible. All windows open in the upper left, ignoring the OSes location for new windows. The window contains terribly ugly icons, but no tooltips. The help item in the menu bar does jack crap... of course a confusing GUI wouldn't have any help! It doesn't work together with iTunes at all. It's not smart enough to figure out it's running on OS X and change its default
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 21, 2004 @04:26PM (#10033955)
        > I am vociferously opposed to copyright law,

        I own a small publishing company that produces learning materials for Japanese language learners. Our customers praise our products, and it is very rewarding to know that we are helping people, but I also need to make a living.

        I recently created an audio companion, which can be paid for and downloaded, to complement a japanese flashcard product of ours. I spent over $1000 for the studio time and voice actress' time. If I sell one for $12, and everyone else SHARES it, then I just threw away about $1000 and wasted a lot of my time.

        A copyright grants legal entitlement by which the owner derives the fruits of her labor in connection with her literary, dramatic, pictorial, and or other graphic creations, etc. The artist labors to create a copyrightable work and then he or she receives a paycheck for such work by exploiting that work under copyright. If someone else derives monies or rewards from that work, without the copyright owners permission, he has unlawfully violated the copyright owners rights and actually, in essence, stolen a portion of or all of the copyright owners paycheck.

        Why would you vociferously opposed to that? Don't you think abolishing copyright law would stifle software, music, and printing industries, as well as artistic creativity, by taking away much of the incentive for producing a work? Don't film makers like Errol Morris deserve to be compensated for their documentary? Don't I? Please explain.
    • by EpsCylonB (307640) <epsNO@SPAMepscylonb.com> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:29AM (#10031996) Homepage
      Do not buy their CDs. Do not attend their concerts. Do not request their songs on the radio. And do not download/share their songs on the Internet.

      Yes dad.
    • by turnstyle (588788) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:32AM (#10032016) Homepage
      "Let me re-state what I've said before: If you do not agree with what RIAA is doing, stop supporting it."

      This is the correct approach.

      The Grokster ruling basically reinforces the notion that the only people that rightsholders can sue at this point are the endusers.

      Personally, I agree that you shouldn't generally hold a technology accountable for how some may misuse it. Along those lines, the EFF themselves used to suggest that the RIAA should be suing infringers [com.com].

      On the other hand, I think Kazaa is just a scuzzy operation, and I'd rather see them get sued than a bunch of end-users. But the Grokster ruling means that's not going to be the way it works, at least not for now.

      If you don't like the RIAA, don't buy their stuff, and don't copy it. Go find new independent artists, and support them directly.

    • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:42AM (#10032088)
      Typical Slashdot holier-than-thou karma-whoring. The issue behind this article is NOT about whether or not you're supporting the RIAA and its artists -- it's that the punishments being meted out don't fit the "crimes" (which in this case don't even have to be proven), and that big media is fucking up normal citizens' lives for no reason other than to buy time for a failing business model.

      (I feel better now. ;-> )

      • The issue is that the RIAA is the one fucking up normal citizens' lives for no reason other than to buy time for a failing business model. If you disagree with this, it is not a good idea to continue to hand them money with which to do this: instead, you ought to boycott them.

        I've been doing this for some time now, and there's quite a bit of non-RIAA music well worth listening to. Metropolis Records [industrial-music.com] is a good place to start for industrial/EBM fans.
    • by ScottGant (642590) <{TONten.labolgcbs} {ta} {tnag_ttocs}> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:47AM (#10032119) Homepage
      CD sales are down...the RIAA is in panic mode. Many people already HAVE stopped supporting them which is why they're suing people left and right.

      The cat is out of the bag...the horse has left the barn....the _________(insert favorite metaphor here). The MP3 Genie is out and they can't put it back in. Sorry, but it's a losing battle.

      The industry will change...this is a fact. The RIAA doesn't like this because they're basically going to stop making the huge mark-up on the CD/Record Market they had cornered. But their monopoly is crumbling, and it's crumbling more and more as the day wears on. Their trying to plug the leaks but the whole dam is falling all around them.

      Is this good or bad? I honestly don't know, but it's going to be an interesting thing to witness! We've seen it many times in the past here, when a business is failing, the last-ditch effort is to issue lawsuits.

      Want to support a band/artist? Go see them in concert OR send money to them directly...and I mean directly TO them...not to the management/record company. Will people send off a check to Chili-Peppers? Don't know, stranger things have happened.
      • by gvc (167165) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:03AM (#10032220)
        There are conflicting reports about whether or not CD sales are down, and if so, whether file sharing is a causal factor. RIAA may well be fudging both so as to fake damages.

        Here's a report that says "Nielsen Rating System At Odds With RIAA's Claim Of Lost Sales" [kensei-news.com].

        Here's a report that states "downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero" [unc.edu].

      • Direct Payments (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nurb432 (527695)
        While I may be in the minority, I have done just that..

        If I have downloaded some live show that I will listen to and feel is worth money, I send the ARTIST some cash..

        If it wasn't worth any money to me, then I don't .. and better luck next time.

        And if decide its worth buying an actual studio CD from the artist, I refuse to fund groups that are with the RIAA, as they have alternative options now, and I support the groups that choose 'plan B'.
        • Re:Direct Payments (Score:4, Insightful)

          by lpp (115405) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @12:34PM (#10032740) Homepage Journal
          Are you talking about big name artists? I mean, if you downloaded a No Doubt live show, liked it and kept it, are you saying you would try to send the band some cash directly?

          If so, have you ever actually verified that the group is getting the funds? I mean, for all you know, their manager or whoever is responsible for handling incoming fan mail might just be pocketing the cash themselves.

          I guess what I'm asking is, is there any indication that performers are even aware that folks like you exist? Because if not, you aren't having much of an effect. It seems we would need to raise awareness to the bands directly.

          Now, what if someone were to create the proverbial tip jar, but this time, with available options to tip any band or performer you choose who has listed themselves with the service. The money would go directly to the performer's bank account without suffering the middle man. By requiring the bands to sign up, you could at least try to screen them to make sure they understand the money is to go directly to them. Fat chance actually talking to them directly, but you never know.

          And I imagine it would have to be in the form of a tip jar or donation or somesuch because of contractual requirements for profit sharing based on sales and such. Better than a "Screw-The-RIAA" jar, legally speaking.
    • Can I mod this +6? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by edremy (36408)
      I get so tired of the groupthink whining here at /. about the evil RIAA, the horrible costs of CDs and how piracy really isn't theft anyway.

      Don't like the RIAA's tactics? Don't like how they rip off artists and sue their customers? Then don't buy from them. It's simply not that hard- buy used CDs if you must, get freely downloadable music from any of a dozen sources, go listen to a local unsigned band and buy their CDs. I've bought exactly one RIAA album in the last three years, and that was because

      • by SillyNickName4me (760022) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:18AM (#10032310) Homepage
        And I get sick of people who blindly repeat their statement regardless of the subject.

        That people who downloaded or shared music that they had no right to are wrong is not being questioned at all here. WHat is beign questioned is how that is dealt with by RIAA and the legal system.

        By going through civil court the RIAA has to comply wuith a much lower standard of proof, and by their tactics they more or less ensure that people will not ghet a fair trial.

        Imho they are definitely right to pursue the people who infringe their rights, but things like proof for that should be held to proper legal standards.

        Saying how people should not be sharing music is not contributing to that discussion, it is redundant, and in fact, off-topic.
      • by xigxag (167441)
        Do it and take your lumps. That may mean losing your house when the RIAA sues you into oblivion. Too bad- you're engaged in civil disobedience, and that has consquences.

        Really, why must people be forced to abide by this "rule" that civil disobedience means you have to accept the punishment for some bogus crime? Would it have been more noble or correct if George Washington et al. had meekly submitted themselves to be executed for treason? Should all those slaves who escaped from their plantations have wi
    • by Anonymous Coward

      > And do not download/share their songs on the Internet.

      I've heard this many times before, but it's just not important enough to override my principles.

      I share files to express my political support of free speech through cyber-anarchy. I am demonstrating to the world that file sharing is a totally inevitable and irresistable force that cannot be controlled.

      In order to make my actions maximally effective, I must share popular material -- and that means, in some cases, that I end up sharing RIAA material

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:20AM (#10031950)
    I wonder if it is legally possible to mount a class-action defense? The defendants could then pool their resources for lawyerage, expert witnesses, etc. If a class of parties can act as a plaintiff, why can't a similar structure be used in defense?
  • RIAA targets... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmayle (200765) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:20AM (#10031951) Homepage Journal

    The sad thing, I think, is that those of us who would be brave enough to stand up in court aren't participating in the types of activities likely to get them targeted.

    A lot of the people who are doing this probably don't own copies of the songs to begin with, which makes it tough for them to stand up for themselves.

    What really needs to happen is that someone with an extensive music collection, and the desire to fight this, needs to leave various P2P applications open 24/7 with access to their vast, legal music collection, so that someone will notice.

    • Re:RIAA targets... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LoadWB (592248) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:35AM (#10032033) Journal
      It is a response I have made in the past to their "we are losing money because of the downloads."

      Horseshit, try again.

      The person who has nothing but downloaded MP3s and CD-Rs burned from downloaded MP3s was NOT going to buy the album in the first place. Instead, the person would have bummed a copy off of a friend who had purchased it.

      IMO, downloading MP3s is no different than when we used to trade tapes at the skating rink or youth center. These tapes were often made from the radio (remember sitting with your finger on the PAUSE button?)

      The facts are that MP3s are LOW quality (completely horrid, as far as I am concerned,) and CD-R media has a finite life-span. Anyone who is genuinely concerned about their music is willing to buy the CD/tape/LP/8-track if only for the quality of the sound.

      I started out in digital music back with the music rack that came with some sound card back in early days of Windows 95. I would use a friend's Win95 computer to sample a track mono, 8-bit at 11kHz, then upload that to my Amiga at 2400bps over the phone. I would convert it to IFF with Fibonacci-Delta compression and play the songs back later when I felt like it. I got about 1MB per 1 minute of music. The playback was usable, but still horrrible. To me, a 44kHz 16-bit MP3 at 192kb/s sounds just the same. I would rather buy the CD and listen to it in the CD player. Not quite as portable, but at least hi-hats are not turned into high-frequency slosh, and vocals do not sound as is sung through a fan.

      One big question I have is, for the purpose of non-profitable distribution, can an MP3 even be considered the original product? Because that seems to be part of the argument.

      More questions which could be asked in court, on the record, and give the US legal system a chance to decide once and for all what is allow, and where the limitations lie.
      • Re:RIAA targets... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Flaming Foobar (597181) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:44AM (#10032097)
        The person who has nothing but downloaded MP3s and CD-Rs burned from downloaded MP3s was NOT going to buy the album in the first place.

        That's just silly. A person who has a 1000 downloaded albums clearly loves music and would have VERY PROBABLY bought at least a few of them if that was the only way to get them. And when the users of P2P are calculated in millions, that amounts to a HUGE amount of albums, even if there are some who indeed wouldn't have bought any.

        IMO, downloading MP3s is no different than when we used to trade tapes at the skating rink or youth center. These tapes were often made from the radio (remember sitting with your finger on the PAUSE button?)

        You don't see a difference between a degraded one-off versus hundreds of millions of 1:1 digital copies?

        The facts are that MP3s are LOW quality (completely horrid, as far as I am concerned,)

        320 kbps MP3's are completely acceptable, in my opinion.

        • > That's just silly. A person who has a 1000 downloaded albums clearly loves music and would have VERY PROBABLY bought at least a few of them if that was the only way to get them. And when the users of P2P are calculated in millions, that amounts to a HUGE amount of albums, even if there are some who indeed wouldn't have bought any.

          So.. lets say they might buy like 5 out of 1000 albums? That is a whopping 0.5%...

          Don't forget that there are aslo peopel who only buy things after having heard them (due to
        • Re:RIAA targets... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:27PM (#10033355)
          That's just silly. A person who has a 1000 downloaded albums clearly loves music and would have VERY PROBABLY bought at least a few of them if that was the only way to get them.

          The size of a collection acquired at essentialy zero marginal cost has no bearing on the size of the collection that would be acquired at substantial marginal cost.

          For example, consider the stereotypical college kid with little free spending money, aka broke, but lots of free time on his hands. He may spend plemnty of hours acquiring music for "free" through his "free" school internet connection. Yet, if the school cuts him off and stops him from using the "free" connection to acquire music, he still won't have any more money to spend on purchasing music. Instead he will seek alternate zero-cost routes, like borrowing CDs from people in the dorm and ripping them. Still zero marginal dollar cost, just less time-efficient. But he's got plenty of time, and no dollars, so its obvious he won't paying money for music anytime soon.
        • Re:RIAA targets... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxpublic (450413)
          That's just silly. A person who has a 1000 downloaded albums clearly loves music and would have VERY PROBABLY bought at least a few of them if that was the only way to get them. And when the users of P2P are calculated in millions, that amounts to a HUGE amount of albums, even if there are some who indeed wouldn't have bought any.

          Two things:

          (1) There is no Constitutional guarantee for profit; and
          (2) There is no Constitutional clause protecting failing business models under assault from technological chan
        • Re:RIAA targets... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maximilln (654768)
          That's just silly. A person who has a 1000 downloaded albums clearly loves music and would have VERY PROBABLY bought at least a few of them if that was the only way to get them

          Not only "a person", but probably multiple people. Why is it that the RIAA only targets the "a person" who has limited financial resources for legal backing? Why don't they go after the yuppie daughter of a rich CEO who, typically, has ten times as many mp3s as any of her threadbare peers?

          The answer to my question is 1) obvious a
  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:22AM (#10031961)
    'I've never had a situation like this before, where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side,' said U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner

    the honourable Nancy Gertner has presided over, by her own admission, numerous drug related trials. US government vs crack addicts seems pretty similar to me.
    • by vena (318873)
      She's apparently a vocal opponent [november.org] of the drug war. i would say US government vs marijuana smokers though, as it'd resonate more with the audience here :)
    • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      Judges have little to no control over what kind of trials they're assigned to preside over. That decision is usually made by a clerk who strives to maintain a random process of assigning incoming cases to available judges on a random basis.

      If you want to make a statement on her credibility or lack there of, how about saying something about her behavior when presented with such cases in her court...
    • Re:huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:59AM (#10032196) Homepage
      • US government vs crack addicts seems pretty similar to me.

      The context is different. The RIAA cases are civil - drug cases are criminal. A destitute defendant in a criminal case is provided a public defender. A destitute defendant in a civil case is provided jack. This is rooted in a principle that government threats to one's liberty (jail) are more dangerous than the threat posed by plaintiffs seeking nothing but money from a defendant.
  • by SledgeHBK (148480) <sledgehbk&yahoo,com> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:22AM (#10031964)
    Get some money hungry lawyers (I know, redundant), to start representing these guys and make a show out of it.

    Blech, never mind. It's the diet pepsi talking.
  • by LoadWB (592248) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:25AM (#10031974) Journal
    This is all to common a theme these days. People are unwilling to stand up against tyranny, which is exactly what this legal campaign is. It's very similar, IMO, to the racketeering of DirecTV against people who had purchased smart card programming equipment.

    If people would take a stand against the RIAA/MPAA when it comes a-knocking, a lot of light would be shed on their lair of demons. As said by the original poster, this would be a great chance to publically question the (RI|MP)AA about their calculations and figured, and tactics, and have the answers on record. Even if the individual being sued had a judgement made against him/her, I do not believe it would be anywhere near what the desired settlement would be, and it would finally set a precedence for limiting what could be sought in future cases.

    If no one stands up against them, they will continue to rape and pillage the consumer. Think about "A Bug's Life,"; the RIAA/MPAA grasshoppers NEED us ants, and they KNOW we are strong and outnumber them, but somehow they are able to bully us into submission.
    • This is all to common a theme these days. People are unwilling to stand up against tyranny, which is exactly what this legal campaign is

      No, they're just doing their job. If you aren't happy with their ways, stop buying music. That's the ticket. Soon they'll be bankrupt and the world will be a much better place.

    • by bradword (806343) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:44AM (#10032100) Homepage
      TThere is one major flaw with everyone getting really pissed at the RIAA. Although I think their tactics are low and they are targeting the wrong people, they all have one thing in common. They are all committing illegal activities, and they know it. Although we like to think that just because millions of people are doing it, it somehow makes the action not quite as wrong, stealing music isn't legal.

      I am not saying for a minute that I have never done it, but I would know that if I got caught it would be because I was doing something wrong, not just because 'the man' is after me. Same with this DirecTV thing. Their were cheating them out of programming by getting a smart card that was illegal and getting them products for free. Why is it that people think stealing technology is fine? I still can't go to the store and grab some Twinkies off the shelf and it be ok. And please don't give me this 'it doesn't cost them any money for me to share songs or TV' stuff. 'I would have never bought the CD anyways'. Well I don't think the 'I wasn't going to buy that Twinkie anyways' would work in court. You buy the CD for entertainment, and now you are taking it for free.

      Again, I have done it myself, but at least I can admit to myself that it is wrong and I could get caught. If I did it would be 100% my own fault.
      • And please don't give me this 'it doesn't cost them any money for me to share songs or TV' stuff.

        Why not? Because it's a perfectly valid refutation of your argument?

        Copying is not theft. Yes, it's illegal. Nobody disagrees with you on that. Law is Law. But it's also illegal in Maryland to drive your car at night without a horse preceeding it by at least 90 feet carrying a lantern.
      • by horza (87255) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:34AM (#10032419) Homepage
        TThere is one major flaw with everyone getting really pissed at the RIAA. Although I think their tactics are low and they are targeting the wrong people, they all have one thing in common. They are all committing illegal activities, and they know it. Although we like to think that just because millions of people are doing it, it somehow makes the action not quite as wrong, stealing music isn't legal.

        When half the country is doing it, from politicians to lawyers to grannies to children, if the majority of people are now labelled criminals then possibly the law needs a rethink. After all the laws are there to serve the needs of the society it is protecting. Laws are not something handed down from God, they are a made-up set of rules which evolve to suit society. For instance, in the UK our society evolved and we decided to remove the law requiring the death penalty. The American economy didn't collapse when slavery was made illegal, despite the increased labour costs. It would be interesting if some people were to write a couple of theory articles on society in 5 years should P2P be made legal for all material today. The music industry wouldn't collapse, it would just adapt, but in which ways?

        Phillip.
    • by HeyLaughingBoy (182206) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:17AM (#10032299)
      People are unwilling to stand up against tyranny, which is exactly what this legal campaign is.

      Tyranny? Are you out of your mind?
      Tyranny is jamming a spear up your ass and then planting the other end in the ground and leaving you to die (cf: Vlad the Impaler)
      Tyranny is torturing a confession out of you because "we know you're guilty, so just admit to it."
      Tyranny is taxation without representation and quartering soldiers in private homes against the owners' wishes.

      Tyranny is not saying "we can prove you were complicit in violating our IP and we'll sue to recover damages."

      For goodness sake, people die because of true tyranny and you're whining because you can't get free tunes!
      Look, I'm all in favor of slapping the RIAA down when they go after people who haven't done anything, but for the rest of them, well, you play with fire, you burn your fingers.

      If you're so in favor of standing up to them why don't you go share a few million songs and send the RIAA anonymous emails about your activity. Then you can have your chance to stand up for the poor oppressed music listeners.
      • by Xyrus (755017) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @01:13PM (#10032947) Journal
        You're definition is very narrow. Tyranny does not mean death. Tyranny is represented by any entity threatening punishement in order to accomplish its own gains.

        People aren't "whining" because they can't get free tunes. People are whining because a multi-billion dollar media conglomorate group are targeting and suing everyday people who cannot affor to fight back, even if they are innocent. So through "threatening", they extort what in comparison ios a smaller amount of money as opposed to the amount of money it would take for someone to hire a lawyer and fight them.

        In the US legal system, you don't necesarily have to win, you just have to last the longest.

        ~X~
      • by clambake (37702) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:23PM (#10033332) Homepage
        Tyranny? Are you out of your mind?

        No, and let me tell you why... At the moment they are only prosecuting people who they believe have copied thier music, or so they say, but imagine, just imagine, that one day they realize how easy it is to get people to cough up money when threatened and start to file suits against anyone, regardless of guilt.

        Could YOU defend yourself if a multinational corporation decided to sue your for whatever? Even if you are GUARANTEED to win, you'd still end up paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Even if you are GUARANTEED to win, you could eat months, even years, of your life in the court room. Do you have that much money under your mattress? Does your job let you take off years of time to prepare a case to defend yourself against false allegations? Does your wife/girlfriend mind being penniless, homeless, probably living with your parents, racking up debt on your credit cards, having the negative stigma of a long, drawn-out legal battl eover your head, for a couple of years while you sort this mess out becuase she knows eventually you'll win and then be free to retrain your skills, find a new job and start your life over from the bottom again?

        Tyranny comes in many forms.


      • You think so? A lawyer showing up one day and saying "We think you did something illegal, so give us 10,000 today or we'll take everything from you tomorrow." when you don't even own a computer and clearly didn't do it (as many of them didn't) doesn't qualify as tyrrany?

        At the very least it's racketeering and extortion. Start just randomly demanding 1/2 a year's wage from random people many of whome never did anything like what you claim, and yet you can force them to pay it because they can't take 6 month
  • Will of the People (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:26AM (#10031981)
    Shouldn't it be up to the people to decide the laws, not organizations? When did it come to organizations, companies, being more powerful than the government? The government is suppose to be by, for, and of the People.
  • Case disclosure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by failedlogic (627314) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:31AM (#10032001)
    As part of a fair trial, wouldn't the RIAA have to supply a list of the songs it accuses you of downloading? If so, one could go to the store and buy the songs before the trial. Lose the receipts so there's no correlation between the trial date and the date you downloaded the song. Then in court, you prove to the RIAA you already owned copies of the songs.

    Better yet, go to a used record store and save some money in the process!
    • Re:Case disclosure (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mtempsch (524313)
      a list of the songs it accuses you of downloading?

      From the article: "lawsuits that the RIAA filed against individuals charged with illegally sharing songs" (emphasis mine)

  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've never had a situation like this before, where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side.

    I guess she's never worked in criminal court.
  • Bout time (Score:5, Funny)

    by mehaiku (754091) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:42AM (#10032082) Homepage

    I am so happy to see that fine, upstanding corporate citizens such as the RIAA, are finally having their day in court. Our society will never be able to progress and move forward until the plebeian consumers finally understand their proper place in society. This example serves to prove why corporations should finally be given the right to vote in elections, according to how much money they attribute to the economy. Only when the corporations move forward, can the rest of our society follow.

  • by RocketScientist (15198) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:42AM (#10032083)
    OK, here's my little mini-rant on the topic of legal protection and public health care.

    Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States or the amendments thereto is there a guarantee for health insurance. Or a guarantee that the government will take care of your doctor and drug bills when you get old. Nowhere. Go, read it, I'll wait.

    Done? OK, but you'll notice in several places a reference to "equal protection under the law".

    Don't socialize medicine. Socialize the legal profession. There's a constitutional basis for it, or at least more of a constitutional basis for it than socializing medicine. Give everyone equal protection in a court of law, something these people (and people accused of drug offenses) don't have.

    Let's have lawyers like the Canadians have doctors. Let's have Johnnie Chochran representing some rich white kid who downloaded music from whatever kids are downloading with these days, and let's have it cost him absolutely nothing.

    • I think this is a wonderful idea! Unfortunately, I don't have much faith that it would ever happen, since lawyers tend to be a very powerful lobby, not to mention that many of our Congress-critters are lawyers, and trying to "socialize" them would produce probably the loudest screams for "free market!" and "capitalism!" that this country has ever heard.

      Still, it's fun to dream about :)
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:58AM (#10032187)
      In 1779, the rule was that all criminal defendants were entitled to a trial by jury if they wanted one, and either side of a civil trial was entitled to get a trial by jury if they wanted one and more than $20 worth of property was in dispute.

      Now, in 2004,the rule is that all criminal defendants are entitled to a trial by jury if they want one, and either side of a civil trial is entitled to get a trial by jury if they want one and more than $20 worth of property is in dispute.

      Uhm... wait a second, I think a little inflation set in over the 200+ year span, yet the $20 value has been hard-coded into the Constitution and never revised. The point is that a jury trial is much more expensive for all involved partisipate in than a judge trial. "The People's Court" was a groundbreaking TV show because it showed a concept in courts that most people didn't know about, the Small Claims Court where both parties waive their right to a trial by jury and the entire case can fit into a short presentation to a single judge, with no lawyers allowed. The thing is, however, most businesses that can afford high-priced lawyers will always demand a trial by jury whenever being sued in order to stay out of such an environment... because that environment levels the playing field and makes unequal ability to afford a lawyer worthless.

      It'd be interesting to see what would happen if that right to demand a civil trial by jury was moved from $20 to $20,000... if the RIAA didn't have their advantage-by-lawyer and had to prove each case one-by-one at appointed hours, would they still be able to do what they're doing?
  • Gee (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nwbvt (768631) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:42AM (#10032087)
    People who broke the law are forced to pay fines. Its almost as if they were not supposed to break the law in the first place.

    Bring it on mods.

  • by Teun (17872) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:53AM (#10032155) Homepage
    Where I come from (The Netherlands) lots of people, if not most, have a Legal Support Insurance.
    The Insurance might decline certain cases for example for gross misconduct but usually you've got some support when needed, typically for less than 50 Euros per year.

    In cases like this it is not uncommon for such insurances to bundle their efforts, sometimes including consumer organisations, to get a more fundamental ruling.

    Of course littigation on the scale we now see in the USofA is not (yet) as common/rampant in Europe.

  • by Gogl (125883) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @10:54AM (#10032164) Journal
    ...who just happens to be a real successful lawyer or have a lot of friends in the EFF or something, and it'll be interesting. They keep on throwing these lawsuits out helter skelter, and it's obvious they're not doing a lot of research about it (remember when they sued an 11 year old or something?). Eventually they'll hit somebody who'll fight back.
    • by Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @12:40PM (#10032766)
      I am afraid they are smarter than that. The legal team part of the RIAA, anyway. Attorneys have a slang phrase they call "Bloodwork". Getting the blookwork on your own client, or someone you are hired to sue, means using all of your connections to get all the info you can on that person, and put it all in one folder. Credit Report, Life History, Goodgle Results, the Private Investigators/Cops/Government Officials who are "friends" of the Law Firm and do behind the scenes checks... all this is part of Bloodwork than any top 100 firm in this country does on EVERY CLIENT and EVERY PERSON THEY ARE UP AGAINST. I would bet my iPod that the RIAA have come accross many people who where sharing songs who were Attorney's, Heart Surgeons, Feds, very wealthy, etc, and skipped right over them.
  • by Hangtime (19526) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:06AM (#10032241) Homepage
    truth and justict for those who can pay for it...
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:17AM (#10032302)
    There are several thousand cases now to analyze. If the RIAA is actually selecting poorer than avarage plantiffs (as some here have alledged), this will show quickly in proper statistical analysis (plot the location of the plantiff on a map, look in the government's poverty index to see what the average inocome in that location is, assign points to an appropriate scale, i.e. 1 point/1,000 $ US).
    If it's there, and can be statistically proven, the next step is to tell the media the RIAA is selectively targeting poor people. A good strong piece of evidence, like RIAA plantiffs averageing 20% below median income, deserves a nice simple "National Enquirer" type headline, like "RIAA out to crush the working class", don't you think? Offer the press a chance for one like that, and some of them will bite.
    While you're at it you could analyze those plantiffs on ethnic lines if they are willing to share the data. If the RIAA has selectively targeted poor people, it would be very hard for them to avoid having selectively targeted minorities at the same time, although they could possibly have deliberately thrown out a percentage of minority cases to avoid the appearance. I'd suggest if this proves fruitful, rather than contacting the media directly with the allegation that the RIAA is selectively targeting black people, you let the NAACP bring the allegation, as in such case, there WILL be a class action countersuit filed, but it will have 22,000,000 members.
    Of course, it's possible there is no consistant pattern. In this case, wait until a couple of months go by where the numbers of plantiffs that are poor or minority is statistically high, and then make the claim "In recent months, the RIAA has switched tactics, to selectively target poorer people."
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:33AM (#10032399) Homepage
    My wife and I were driving home from dinner and she pointed out that the music on the popular radio stations all sounded the same. The instruments, the type of singing, she called it modified grunge. Grunge Lite if you will. All angst and woe is me, which means they're probably singing about their record contracts. I used to joke Sarah Mclaughlin and Alanis Morissett were actually the same person working for different labels.

    So at a time when they're suing thousands of their own customers...not a good business strategy IMHO...they're also cranking out really boring, insanely depressing music that all sounds like it was stamped out with an audio cookie cutter.

    If this keeps up they'll have to give up the cocaine, private jets and porn star girlfriends! I'm having a hard time working up any sympathy for them.

    So, yeah, hit them back in the wallet. Go out and sample free downloads, there are thousands of legal songs you can check out. Here are a couple links to get you started:

    • www.goingware.com/tips/legal-downloads.html
    • music.download.com
    • irate.sourceforge.net

    You can also shop at used CD stores. The only way you're going to get them to change is to stop buying their crap.

  • by nusratt (751548) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:39AM (#10032442) Journal
    One recurring theme is powerful well-funded RIAA pursuing individuals who are forced to settle in order to avoid worse consequences.

    Question:
    is there any such thing as a "reverse class-action"?
    IOW, is there any way that multiple defendants can gather and force RIAA to pursue them all as one joint defendant, so that they could pool their defensive resources?
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr@teleb[ ].com ['ody' in gap]> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:53AM (#10032519) Homepage Journal
    The point is not that the people being sued probably were committing acts illegal where they lived. The point is that a massive organization is steamrolling over individuals to make an impression, whereas those individuals would never have bought for example, enough music to refinance their house, etc. The RIAA is also doing things which they didn't used to do 10 or 20 years ago, when people recorded a lot of their music off the radio as one poster mentioned.

    I don't buy RIAA music, haven't since I noticed the price of CDs in the stores was getting intolerable, this was 15 years ago. Somehow though I don't think removing one customer from their market is going to make a big dent.

    Look, they're asking for it. This wave of litigation against individuals seems like a first for the judge because usually, customers don't tolerate that kind of shit. The RIAA believes it can get away with it and continue to feed you shit at high prices and you will continue to buy it. They are DARING you to fight back. Think about it.

    So what else can you do? Well, if you are in business you could financially support non-RIAA or anti-RIAA bands, stations, software, or organziations. If you are in the prime RIAA demographic you can work hard to get all of your friends to stop buying RIAA music (especially the ones who are visible about it).

    Ad agencies are beginning to realize the P2P type social networking (not just Internet-based, think word of mouth) gets much higher quality candidates (potential customers) than ordinary advertising. This can be turned around on the RIAA and suitable software / funding could magnify it. I think the iPod thing at Duke is fantastic. Now think of how to ensure that those iPods could massively reduce the amount of income the RIAA would get from that University, think and do something about it.

    I don't buy RIAA music. I do like to watch live concerts on TV, and sometimes like what I hear on the radio (though I don't hear much of that either these days). These days cellphone subscriptions are starting to have a very large effect on record companies by removing disposable income from young people that would have gone to the RIAA. I am not for promoting illegal activities. I do see though a very unsettling trend of corporations taking over America (and elsewhere) and believe that litigation by the RIAA against potential customers , and the media slant on the affair (well there is a law against it so..) is a symptom of that.

    The RIAA is within its legal rights at the moment to take these kinds of actions. It think it will be interesting to see their response if their customers exercise their legal rights to not purchase, to publicize, to organize, and to legally foment discord and financial destruction in the RIAA. Perhaps a good first plan of attack is to create a fund to hire artists away from the RIAA.

    Remember, it is a lot like smoking. Every time you buy an RIAA product, you are saying "Thank you, please hit me again" to these nasty people. But the RIAA is always looking for new customers and new artists, every year. There is no reason why we couldn't start to put the pressure on them. Food for thought.
  • by adzoox (615327) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @11:53AM (#10032521) Journal
    If someone that got sued by the RIAA came to slashdot and created a website to help with legal funds I wonder how much the /. crowd would raise for them?

    Are we just talkers or can we each put a dollar where our mouths are?

    I would think a donation thread and an advice thread WOULD help win a case against them.

  • Alas... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by merikus (722704) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @12:24PM (#10032694)
    ...this is how things often work in the legal world, now-a-days. Legal professionals want to go to court as only a last resort, for the simple and compelling reason that you don't know what could happen. The RIAA doesn't want to go to court, as it's worried that they will set a bad precedent for their legal racket. The defendant doesn't want to go to court because they could lose big time, and be forced in to bankruptcy.

    The problem goes much further than this specific case--the legal system is broken and needs fixing. We've created this zero-sum game, forcing people to either settle early and choose their own destiny, or go to court and leave it up to no more than a coin flip.

    Thing is, under the current system, I'd advise my clients to do the same thing. Settle and get on with their lives. Yes, we need a test case to set some precedent here, but I would not put any of my clients in that position unless they were adamant about it.

    There's just too much risk and money involved with going to court, and, so, settlements are creating a practically private legal system with often confidential terms. What to do, what to do...
  • RIAA radar (Score:3, Informative)

    by mesmartyoudumb (471890) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @12:55PM (#10032841) Homepage
    I suggest everyone check out the RIAA RADAR, It has a list of most artists and their releases, and tells you if the artists company is RIAA or not. Check it out at: http://www.magnetbox.com/riaa/ [magnetbox.com]

    Enjoy!

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