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Fighting RIAA Without an Attorney 407

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the go-down-swinging dept.
2think writes "Yahoo News is reporting that Patricia Santangelo of New York will be taking on the RIAA in court without an attorney. It seems that Ms. Santangelo has committed over $24,000 due to her case and simply cannot afford to continue with the services of an attorney." From the article: "Her former lawyer, Ray Beckerman, says Santangelo doesn't really need him. 'I'm sure she's going to win,' he said. 'I don't see how they could win. They have no case. They have no evidence she ever did anything. They don't know how the files appeared on her computer or who put them there.'"
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Fighting RIAA Without an Attorney

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  • by The Ancients (626689) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:27AM (#14338816) Homepage
    Ok - maybe not. I guess this lawyer is the exception to the rule, stating that his client doesn't really need him.

    In a serious vein, if she wins it will set precedent and give hope to others that can't afford a lawyer.

    • by Hannah E. Davis (870669) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:34AM (#14338836) Journal
      Well, it's probably in his best interests to say that.

      At this point, even if he told her that she could never make it without him, he'd sound like a greedy bastard. This way, he shows that he's nice and really cares about his clients, even after they've stopped paying him.

      If she wins, he gets to imply (or let people imply) that it was because of suggestions that he gave her. If she loses, well... he gets to sit there quietly and let people shake their heads and say "She never should've fired that lawyer".

      Realistically, though, he's probably just a nice person. The lawyers that I know are no different from anyone else, and they really are more interested in doing the right thing than making a few extra bucks.

      • he will imply, others will infer.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:35AM (#14339043)
        Realistically, though, he's probably just a nice person

        Having taken $24000 off her and leaving her broke.
        • by bluesbrosfan (729454) on Monday December 26, 2005 @10:58AM (#14339533)

          Having taken $24000 off her and leaving her broke.

          No, having provided a service for a fee that was agreed upon in advance. He didn't "take" anthing.

        • by Kjella (173770) on Monday December 26, 2005 @11:18AM (#14339594) Homepage
          Having taken $24000 off her and leaving her broke.

          For which I'm sure she's got services rendered. It's sort of like getting a lease on a car to drive around the world, and half-way there you're broke. Was the car rental really the one to screw you over?

          Now, he probably should have given her some better legal advice on how long this'd take and how much it'd cost, but I don't know how much cheaper it'd get. As long as he is her attorney I assume he has responsibilities for her defense which means his paralegals have to do the rest, even the parts she might do on her own.

          What's the alternative? I'm sure you've heard the saying "Anyone who represents himself has a fool for a client". It'd be a matter of sooner versus later. Maybe he hoped a lawyer and real legal defense could make them drop the case before she ran out of money. In any case, I don't think it would have been good legal advice to say "don't hire me" either.

          What else could he do? Take it pro bono? Possibly, but I doubt a guy representing single mothers of five rake in millions. He probably has a student loan to pay, mortgage to pay, kids to feed and so on. In short, she's getting the shaft but I don't quite see how he's at fault for that.
          • by Zordak (123132) on Monday December 26, 2005 @01:15PM (#14339936) Homepage Journal
            Now, he probably should have given her some better legal advice on how long this'd take and how much it'd cost, but I don't know how much cheaper it'd get.


            It seems pretty clear that her attorney had hoped to get this case dismissed on a 12(b)(6) motion (lack of sufficient evidence). He was hoping they would just leave the woman alone at that point. If you go find the available court transcripts and read them, you can tell the judge is not fond of the RIAA attorneys or their suit. But she still has to follow the law, and her interpretation of the law is that this thing needs to go forward. Now the RIAA guys have put themselves in a real bind. These downloading suits are really a revenue-generating protection racket -- Give us money or we'll sue you. Most people just gave them the money. Now that somebody is fighting back, they can't just drop the suit, or it will look like they brought the suit in bad faith (which they did). So a very unsympathetic Goliath has to fight a very sympathetic David in front of a jury and live with the precedent they set. They will also be subject to discovery, which could be the source of all manner of fun. It may even help this lady to go pro se now. To the jury, it will look like the RIAA is persecuting this poor single mother who can't even afford an attorney (which they are).



            I really take issue with the people implying (or outright stating) that this attorney was trying to scam this poor lady. As you pointed out, he likely has student loans to pay, and that debt is likely to be larger than many mortgages. Lawyers are expected to do some pro bono work, but they also have to make a living like everyone else. If everybody here is so altruistic, feel free to send this woman some of your own money so she can pay her attorney again.

    • Seems to me that her lawyer really doesn't want to take the case. If it were that easy, he could do it pro bono and then make a name for himself defending against the RIAA.

      IANAL, but I think you always need a laywer if the other side has a lawyer. Actually, I subscribe to the Have-More-Lawyers-than-the-Other-Side train of thought. So far, I've only needed 3 at any one time.

      She should really look hard for someone else to take the case. You really don't send beginners against professionals.

      What's that old

    • What price is justice?
      Simple, Just ask the lawyers! They will tell you that you can't afford it.
      Why shouln't everyone get an equal change to prove their case (both the guilty and the innocent)?
      I know that without a lawyer, even when you have a bulletproof case as this woman supposedly has,
      there is a heck of a lot more change for the other side to slip something past you
      that you might not even know is significant until it is too late!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @11:18AM (#14339595)
      Under a fair and just system of law, only the most complex cases would require hiring a third party for legal representation. The simple reason why lawyers are "standard" today in the court of law is that the law is overly complex (and therefore ambiguous, exploitable, and corrupt). There are now so many laws, and so many ways to "interpret" them, that it is literally impossible for one person to comprehend them all. We are all criminals in one way or another, and if government wants to lock up a peaceful individual, they can easily find a way.

      Put another way, if the average individual can't represent himself before the law, then there is something very wrong with the law.
      • Sort of... (Score:5, Informative)

        by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:11PM (#14341390) Homepage Journal
        The simple reason why lawyers are "standard" today in the court of law is that the law is overly complex (and therefore ambiguous, exploitable, and corrupt).

        This is correct, but it's not the only reason.

        The legal system functions like a club. Even if you're fully aware of your rights and the laws, if you're not in the club, you will grossly mistreated no matter how right you are, and when all is said and done, you'll end up screwed.

        When I was a broke college student, I tried to represent myself in court one time against a minor offense I was accused of. I thought it was going to be open-and-shut, with me being the beneficiary of our fine system of justice. I had incontrovertible proof that I was 100% right. (Incontrovertible proof in the "photographic evidence" sense, before the days of digital cameras and desktop photo editing.) I was up against an assistant prosecutor who was obviously trying to get a promotion (aren't we all, right?) and two police officers who flat-out lied on the witness stand. (Again, I had incontrovertible photographic evidence that they lied.)

        While I was testifying, the prosecutor objected to my pictures because she hadn't seen them. (I'm sorry, since when does the prosecution have the right of discovery?) The judge cut me off while I was questioning one of the officers about how he knew where I was at a particular time (which was the crux of the case against me) because it was "irrelevant." Before the case, the judge told me that I was not entitled to a jury trial, and after the case, when the judge said, "Guilty," she literally leaned over the bench as I was walking by and said under earshot of everyone else in the room (including the court reporter), "You know, you never really had a chance."

        I saw the prosecutor a little later, and she said, "You can appeal if you want to, but they never overturn these cases, and it will cost you thousands of dollars. You should just pay the fine and be done with it."

        If I had money backing me and a lawyer with me in the room, I'm 100% sure it would have been a totally different story, and I'll never set foot in a courtroom (or a police station, for that matter) without a lawyer representing me. Not because I think they're particularly smart or because I don't think they're scummy like everyone else does. In my estimation, the vast majority of them are not providing a valuable service, they're just bottom scrapers who leech off benefits from a crooked system.

        Needless to say, I have a very grim view of our (lack-of-) justice system to this day. While most people are so worked up about how a miniscule number of guilty people walk free because of it, I'm much more concerned about the opposite problem, which is how many innocent people get screwed by a system that is geared to find everyone guilty regardless of the truth, and how many people get extorted by this stupid system. Now, whenever I hear of someone who's been accused of a crime, especially a poor person, who pleads not guilty and is convicted, I keep a much more open mind to their situation. I'm just glad that I found out how it works on, as I said, a minor offense that ended with a fine, and not something serious.

        Thanks, Judge Nancy Campbell of Cobb County, Georgia. I used to have a lot of respect for the law and for judges. I really appreciate you showing me just how naïve I truly was.

    • by numbski (515011) * <numbski@hksil[ ].net ['ver' in gap]> on Monday December 26, 2005 @01:00PM (#14339883) Homepage Journal
      While I appreciate the comments here (read almost all of them...), may I sway this a bit?

      I don't care your religion. It's Christmas. Channukuk. Winter Solstice, yadda yadda. (I'm Christian).

      Is there anything we can do to help this lady? She's fighting the good fight, she's nearly broke. If there were ever a situation that Slashdotters could or should champion...come on guys.

      I'm late to this thread, but it's tempting to take up a virtual collection jar on this matter. $1 a person. How many people read Slashdot? We could probably come close to totally relieving this woman's burden and give her a fighting chance to win this thing.

      I'm serious. Anyone in?
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Vandemar (797798) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:28AM (#14338819) Homepage
    I'm guessing the RIAA will drop the case anyway and try to find someone with a bit more cash on hand next time. She's flat broke, what use is she to them now? Wait, this is supposed to be about justice? My bad...
    • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Propaganda13 (312548)
      This is exactly what they want. A parent who is now $24000 in debt due to having children download music and going to court with the RIAA. If I'm being sued, I settle out of court for fearing of losing more money. Even if she wins the case, she's lost more money than the settlement. If I'm a parent, I don't let my kids anywhere near P2P.

      Civil cases suck.
      • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        If she wins, doesn't RIAA have to pay his legal expenses?
      • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by HangingChad (677530)
        If I'm being sued, I settle out of court for fearing of losing more money. Even if she wins the case, she's lost more money than the settlement.

        And that's exactly why it keeps happening and will keep happening until those getting sued do what some companies have done on patent claims: Team up and share legal expenses. As long as people roll over, it enables their behavior. Let someone else stand up to them, that's the ticket. But if we (the collective we, which obviously doesn't include you) don't make

        • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@gmail.OPENBSDcom minus bsd> on Monday December 26, 2005 @09:10AM (#14339300)
          This is really funny, trying to pin this on the Republicans when it's that "other" sponsored and signed into law the bill that makes this possible (the DMCA), has the largest group of Hollywood shills known to man (hello, California anyone?), and has a number of very happy to please lapdogs (former Senator Hollings, anyone)?

          You need to get real.
          • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HangingChad (677530)
            You need to get real.

            Let's see...the Republicans have both houses of Congress and the White House and it's me that needs to get real? Anything that's not happening is 100% Republican owned. When the DMCA was passed in 1998 the Repubs had majorities in both houses then too, which means they could have kept it from even getting to the floor for a vote.

            Maybe it wouldn't have been any different if the Dems had been in power, but we'll never know. The bottom line is it was Republican conceived, Republican

          • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

            by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday December 26, 2005 @10:58AM (#14339532) Homepage Journal
            That's funny, because Rep. Howard Coble [house.gov], who was the sponsor of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act [loc.gov], calls himself a Republican.

            The DMCA passed with bi-partisan support. Congress was one thing, the Senate was another, as far as control by each party went at the time. The President was a Democrat, but was wasting an enormous amount of time fighting utterly ridiculous claims of "sexual harassment", "Whitewater fraud", and finally "Lying about something that was irrelevent to the first case but was brought up in that court anyway in order to create embarassment." I think it's sad he didn't stand up on the job, but I wouldn't draw any conclusions about it having anything to do with cozying up to Hollywood.

            It is false to use a lack of Democratic opposition to the DMCA to pretend that a claim Republicans support this shit is false. It is 100% true that Republicans support extreme copyright laws. Both the DMCA and the Sonny Bono (R) Copyright Act were Republican proposals, with bi-partisan support.

          • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

            by coolGuyZak (844482) on Monday December 26, 2005 @12:32PM (#14339801)
            You need to get real.

            We don't want any of your proprietary codecs here.

            oh, wait...

        • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bodysurf (645983)

          >>"If I'm being sued, I settle out of court for fearing of losing more money. Even if she wins the case, she's lost more money than the settlement."

          >And that's exactly why it keeps happening and will keep happening until those getting sued do what some companies have done on patent claims: Team up and share legal expenses. As long as people roll over, it enables their behavior.

          Right again. The RIAA & their law sharks have a big portion of the other 16,000 (people who have settled) x $3,5

        • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bullfish (858648)
          What you need is a proviso in the law to kill these nuisance law suits from organizations. Can't the court in the US make the RIAA pay all her legal costs if they find their case unfounded. In Britain, if a case is decided "wholly without merit", the person (entity) who brought the case is made to pay the legal fees of those they brought the case against.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:30AM (#14339031)
      I'm guessing the RIAA will drop the case anyway and try to find someone with a bit more cash on hand next time.

      The RIAA does not sue individuals for the money. The RIAA sues individuals to garner press through which they intend to frighten entire populations of individuals into not downloading.

      This whole story is tailor-made to their efforts. The moral of it is, even when it is impossible to prove the illicit origin of music files on your computer, you still might be unlucky enough to be involved in litigation that can cost you big bucks. The message is, "parents: monitor the content of your kids' hardrives carefully, lest it end up costing you. Digital music just ain't worth the potential hassle."

      Intelligent strategy. But getting the story on slashdot during Christmas break is absolutely brilliant.
      • "Intelligent strategy. "

        My my, I thought RIAA are the only one to believe this will go anywhere. FYI this leads to the "will never happen to me" syndome, which is occuring of something terrible happens to a random few in a huge population.

        Other such events are car crashes (almost anyone who crashes and survived will tell you he thought "it'll never happen to him").

        What would be more effective, would be suing a large majority for small sums (like, dunno, few hundred to one thousand bucks) with a quick stream
        • They are trying both ways.

          The more people they scare the better. This is terrorism at its best. It is not that they will be able to sue everyone who ever accessed a P2P network, but they sure can terrorize people like with just a couple of "examples" like this and then also do batch litigation a 1000 or more people at a time here and there -- just enough to have everyone's "friend of friend" go through this. When stuff happens to "people you know" then one really starts thinking that it might happen him/h

          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by h4rm0ny (722443) on Monday December 26, 2005 @09:51AM (#14339385) Journal

            I'm not aware of any spyware or virus that would download random .mp3's onto your computer. Of course if any virus writer with an axe to grind out there chose to write a virus that connected to a P2P network and did this, then it would really cock-up any RIAA prosecution efforts.
  • Stupid? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If they have no case hopefully she will be able to get back the money she has spent on lawyer fees. My concern is that she may lose and her case may create some sort of precedent. The only way she could lose a case like this is representing herself.
  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dirtsurfer (595452) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:29AM (#14338824) Journal
    'I'm sure she's going to win,' he said. 'I don't see how they could win.

    Well, I don't know. Maybe her lawyer could stop defending her. Then they might win.
    • Really.

      RIAA Lawyers: "Wow, we were really losing there, there was no chance of us to win and we were actually about to drop the case...then her lawyer quit and said that she could defend herself. So we tripled the damages and we totally destroyed her life with our complete and utter victory over her case! WE CAN'T BE STOPPED! Oh, and by the way, don't forget to take 100,000 out of petty cash and give it to her ex lawyer per our agreement. Do the usual laundering of it so it can't come back to us...you know,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:30AM (#14338826)
    "Gee, judge, I have no idea how the cocaine got in my suitcase or who put it there. Can I leave now?"

    That's her defense. Good luck, Patricia. Yer gonna needit.
    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:55AM (#14338877)
      Except that, on the net, this really does happen. People take over other's computers all the time, to host porn sites, warez sites, to use them as hops/storage on the way to another computer, and for all sorts of other crap. There's really no reason to assume that someone is guilty for having files on their computer with the net as it is today, and security as it is today.
      • by westlake (615356) on Monday December 26, 2005 @07:08AM (#14339104)
        more than reasonable doubt

        How many times is it necessary to say this? "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt" applies to criminal cases only. There is no finding of guilt or innocence in a civil case, only a determination of legal responsibility, a judgment for the plaintiff or defendant based on the simplest and most plausible interpretation of the evidence.

        • Well, I wasn't talking about reasonable doubt in a letter of the law, "this will get them off" sense -- more like the spirit of the law sense, in which it's not right to accuse someone unless you can be reasonably sure it was them. Regardless, I don't care whether you refer to guilt as guilt or "legal responsibility". Either way, someone's life would be ruined for sharing.
        • by sjames (1099) on Monday December 26, 2005 @11:44AM (#14339667) Homepage

          a judgment for the plaintiff or defendant based on the simplest and most plausible interpretation of the evidence.

          Given the state of users, Windows, and the net today, I'd say that "I have no idea how those files got there" is QUITE plausible. Given the odds that an average person's Windows machine on broadband contains one or more backdoors or keyloggers, coupled with the number of wide open access points with default admin passwords (and an owner with no idea that that might be bad), I might go so far as to say that the opposite might require extrordinary proof.

          The problem is that too many of the elements here, including intellectual property itself, are intangible and barely understood black boxes to the average person. The same person that understands that you must lock your doors when you go out, and that taking your neighbor's lawnmower for your own is theft does not understand that making a copy of an e-book is theft or that you must also lock your wireless AP (even when you're home).

          Yes, we can say that they need to get educated (and they do), but we must also face that we are in the process of creating brand new (probably unjust) legal responsabilities here. If I buy a nidty gadget, I have no special duty to keep others from reverse engineering it. I have no legal duty to prevent it's theft (though I will naturally want to do that for my own benefit) or to prevent another from copying it. Somehow, that duty seems to be cropping up all over the place when it comes to movies or music?

          These days, it would seem that given a choice between failing to keep your gun from being stolen by a felon or failing to keep your new Audio CD from being copied by the kid next door, legally you're better off protecting the CD. What does it say about society when we are more concerned (legally) with inadvertantly costing the RIAA eight bucks than we are with inadvertantly helping someone go on a killing spree?

    • "Gee, judge, I have no idea how the cocaine got in my suitcase or who put it there. Can I leave now?"

      This happens. Look at Australia [google.com].

      There's a good reason I always lock my baggage. Of course last time I visisted the USA, the fuckers cut the locks off my suitcase.
    • by autopr0n (534291) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:36AM (#14338947) Homepage Journal
      Unlike drugs, or kiddy porn where the mere possession is a crime, copyright infringement is only a tort if it can be proven that you transferred the files to someone else. In any event, it's very possible that her box could have been a zombie, rooted by some bored teenager looking to file share without risk.
      • In any event, it's very possible that her box could have been a zombie, rooted by some bored teenager looking to file share without risk.

        This is not a criminal case, it's a civil case. It doesn't matter that it's possible that her computer was rooted by someone else, 51% probability that her kids put the files on the computer is enough to loose.

        --
        Click me, it won't hurt much [monstersgame.net]

      • Unlike drugs, or kiddy porn where the mere possession is a crime, copyright infringement is only a tort if it can be proven that you transferred the files to someone else

        "In the common law, a tort is a civil wrong, other than a breach of contract, for which the law provides a remedy." Tort [wikipedia.org]

  • by tealover (187148) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:32AM (#14338831)
    While the RIAA may have the law on its side to pursue these cases, is it truly just to file blind lawsuits in this manner. If they believe that everyone who buys a PC must know how to adequately secure it from external and internal users, doesn't it then stand to reason that it should be suing the OS and hardware companies who sell their products in a completely unsecured state? Or shouldn't the RIAA work with these companies to make their products secure out of the box ?

    Why is it the responsibility of this woman to become a security expert in order to benefit the RIAA ?
    • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:34AM (#14338944) Homepage Journal
      Well it basically boils down to you can pay whatever they ask you and they'll go away, or you can go bankrupt trying to defend yourself in court. Nevermind that their evidence is entirely circumstantial -- all they really have is an IP address and the name of the person who had that IP address at the time of the download. There are any number of ways that the computer could have been sharing the files without any participation at all of anyone in the house.

      No one has to become a security expert to connect a computer to the Internet, but not doing so potentially opens yourself to this sort of lawsuit, even if you've never done anything wrong. And even if you can prove you're innocent of any wrongdoing, you'll still end up spending your life's savings and then-some just to argue the case in court. So perhaps the question should not be, "Is it anyone's responsibility to become a security expert if they want to use the Internet," but rather, "Can they afford not to?" And no it's not extortion, because we don't call it that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:35AM (#14338838)
    How and why is downloading something illegal? Wouldn't distribution be illegal because it's copyright infringement? But how or why is downloading be illegal?

    Isn't that just an extension of freedom of speech? The freedom to listen/watch?

    Is listening to someone, who didn't pay the RIAA, sing the copyrighted song Happy Birthday illegal? Or is flipping through a stack of unpublished/unlicensed photos illegal?

    Is it because there's a copy of something on the computer? Would streaming be more legal?

    I want to know what law is being broken. I looked this up in the internet and still have no definite answer. I simply need to know.
    • I don't know, I would like to get this question answered too.

      But imagine if she loses. Imagine the chill this would set on the rest of the (american served or owned part) internet.

      What if you could then get sued for the images in your browser cache? There are many fanwebsites that make gray-area use of those........ could you get in trouble for that?
    • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:44AM (#14338956)
      This is something most people don't get, and it's a misconception the RIAA/MPAA push as much as possible when they go on about "illegal downloads". They've gone way past the limits on *distribution* that copyright imposes, and they'd like to attack your right to watch and listen to the speech of others at its very core. Their business model can't easily coexist with basic human freedom in the digital age, just as many moguls and kings in the agricultural age couldn't get by without slavery; after all, didn't their incomes depend on it?

      To understand the blatantly false statements the RIAA and their shills love to make, you have to see through their numerous incorrect premises:

      1. Copying and sharing, the basis of all human culture and advancement, are somehow heinous crimes in the digital age.
      2. Seeing something is the same as doing something.
      3. The US's laws apply to everyone in the world, and are superior to every other law.
      4. Legality is more important than morality.
      5. Your property belongs to some corporation instead of to you.
      6. Creativity cannot exist without cartels and monopolies.
      7. Guaranteed profits are better than freedom.

      Every person who advocates for the RIAA and punishing downloaders falls for one or more of these errors. Reject these, and you see the RIAA's legal tactics for what they are: criminal extortion and racketeering. Now that the RIAA gets to teach these awful anti-values to elementary students, however, the future of freedom is in serious jeopardy.
      • To understand the blatantly false statements the RIAA and their shills love to make, you have to see through their numerous incorrect premises:

        Actually, several of premises are actually false, or are putting words in the RIAA's mouth.

        1. Copying and sharing, the basis of all human culture and advancement, are somehow heinous crimes in the digital age.

        No one ever said copying and sharing are heinous crimes. Unauthorized copying and sharing of copyright materials is against the law (copyright infringe
        • "Actually, several of premises are actually false, or are putting words in the RIAA's mouth."

          I don't think so, but let's see.

          "No one ever said copying and sharing are heinous crimes. Unauthorized copying and sharing of copyright materials is against the law (copyright infringement isn't a criminal act, but it can get you sued)."

          I didn't say "all copying and sharing", but it's clear the RIAA/MPAA and Congress are bent on making more and more kinds of cultural sharing criminal acts, where none at all (in my o
      • The basis of all human culture and advancement is sharing porn and Britney Spears music over a digital network.

        Woa.

        One problem exists for sure: digital is very easy to alter and mold into whatever you want it to be. So everyone tries to do it (consumers to get free content, and industry to enslave us).
      • by mumblestheclown (569987) on Monday December 26, 2005 @09:59AM (#14339395)
        Hi. I defend the "traditional" view of copyright. I am not an "RIAA shill", but an intelligent person with a logical mind. Therefore, I will respond to you point by point.

        1. Copying and sharing, the basis of all human culture and advancement, are somehow heinous crimes in the digital age.

        This is what is known as "amphiboly" (look it up via google for a full definition.) Here you attempt to link the cuddly and innocent terms "copying", "sharing", "human culture and advamcent" with acts that break the social contract known as copyright. Copyright exists for a reason: the reasons should be well known to you by now and history and economics have shown UNQUESTIONABLY that the notion of copyright (and other IP mechanisms) (and the necessary enforcement that comes with it) are actually very useful for "human culture and advancement." While I'm sure you are just oozing with junior high logic as to why that is not so, the reality of the situation is that if you look accross ANY combination of industry, country segment, etc where there are strong IP regulations, in the overwhelming number of cases, having strong IP laws DO what they are designed to do: encourage production (and therefore, advance human culture.)

        2. Seeing something is the same as doing something.

        The problem with this argument is INTENT. When somebody downloads music off the internet that they do not have the righs to, they are generally VERY CLEARLY taking an action that any damn fool knows is illegal. Because the law views intent as important, this is why what is being done is bad. Plus, there is the fact that under many P2P programs, once you download something you automatically generally propagate it as well (consider how eDonkey works, for example).

        3. The US's laws apply to everyone in the world, and are superior to every other law

        Here you just like making cartoon attack against the USA. The fact is that in EVERYWHERE in the world where you are likely to be reading this (except for taiwan), IP laws have been harmonized to the point where the basics are the same. Sure, there have been some odd lower court rulings in Canada, France, etc, but generally these are eventually struck down and the basics upheld for the simple reason that all civilized countries are producers of IP and recognize that their economies (and therefore the welfare of the people) depend on IP laws being enforced.

        4. Legality is more important than morality.

        This is a general claim that we could also make of pirates who try to spin torturous explanations of "fair use" into how they can fairly share with millions of people anonymously. "Morality?" I dont know about morality, but I do know that strong IP rules make good economies which make higher standard of living for all - the link is blatantly obvious to anybody who has taken time to study this.

        5. Your property belongs to some corporation instead of to you.

        This is a nice attempt at a smear, but with no basis in reality. Many things are licensed, not sold, and we as a society have come to understand that there are necessary limits, for the good of all, to how intellectual goods can be distributed.

        6. Creativity cannot exist without cartels and monopolies.

        Oh stop already. This is cartoon nonsense.

        7. Guaranteed profits are better than freedom.

        Zzzzz..

        • "Here you attempt to link the cuddly and innocent terms "copying", "sharing", "human culture and advamcent" with acts that break the social contract known as copyright."

          I didn't agree to your silly social contract.

          "Copyright exists for a reason..."

          To pad wealthy pockets and protect stagnant business models? Or for political censorship, as was intended with the first copyright laws in England?

          "history and economics have shown UNQUESTIONABLY that the notion of copyright... are actually very useful for "human
      • by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Monday December 26, 2005 @01:56PM (#14340122) Homepage
        To understand the blatantly false statements the RIAA and their shills love to make, you have to see through their numerous incorrect premises:

        Look, I'm no shill for the RIAA/MPAA, but several of the premises you're putting forth are either false, misleading, or exaggerated by yourself. You are guilty of doing exactly the same thing as they are doing, namely of spreading FUD about them in order to push your own agenda. In educated circles this is referred to as a strawman, assigning your opponent a false argument in order to defeat it and thus claim victory.

        1. Copying and sharing, the basis of all human culture and advancement, are somehow heinous crimes in the digital age.

        This "premise" ignores a basic fact: what you create is your property. If I write a song, or a program, or build a birdhouse, that is my property to do with as I see fit. If I choose to give that song, program, or birdhouse away for free, that is my right. If I wish to charge $1 billion for it, that is also my right, although it had better be a damned good song, program, or birdhouse if I ever expect to sell them. This is where free market principles trump everything: private property rights -- and thus value of same -- are intrisically linked to how much demand there is for said property. Britney Spears makes tons of money because people -- for some inexplicable reason -- like her music. Neither she nor her recording company holds a gun to anyone's head an forces them to buy her music. People who buy do so by choice, having decided to part with their money -- earned through their own efforts -- in exchange for the product of her work, namely her music.

        Now, you're likely to point out that Mrs. Spears doesn't make nearly as much money as her record company does, and you'd be quite correct there. But Mrs. Spears has hired the company to produce and distribute her music, and they are entitled to whatever fees and markups they want. Now, they could do stupid things like charge $100 per CD, but again the free market defeats them. Prices of CD's are set at what they're set at not because the record companies decided that but because consumers have decided that's the most they're willing to pay. I'm sure they'd be happy paying less (just look at the success of iTunes), but it's in the record company's best interests to charge as much as they can for their product. They want to make a profit, and there's nothing wrong with that. If customers decide their wares are not worth what is being charged, the company won't make a profit and will eventually fold. Again, the free market cures all.

        2. Seeing something is the same as doing something.

        This is a vague statement on your part. Please explain your reasoning.

        3. The US's laws apply to everyone in the world, and are superior to every other law.

        In the U.S., U.S. law is superior to every other law. Outside our borders, either International Law applies, or there are individual copyright laws handled on a per-country basis. If you think copyright protection is some sort of U.S. racket, perhaps you ought to look at copyright laws outside the U.S. With but few exceptions, their laws more or less mirror U.S. law. You may think this is some kind of conspiracy, but it isn't. It is the natural product of intellectual property rights.

        4. Legality is more important than morality.

        Both are equally important. You are trying to argue that you have some intrinsic right to the fruit of someone else's labors without expending any effort or capital of your own. That is neither moral nor legal.

        5. Your property belongs to some corporation instead of to you.

        The products of a company -- be they tangible assets like widgets or movies like "Lord of the Rings" -- do belong to those who produced and/or financed it. Just as tangible assets must be purchased to enjoy, so must intangibles. But since intangibles can be freely passed from one i
    • by Pofy (471469)
      >How and why is downloading something illegal?

      Because it is a copying of a file. it may in many cases (but not always) be a copyright infringement since copying is a right that belongs to the copyright holder. There are, depending on country), many cases when you CAN create a copy without it being infringement though.

      >Wouldn't distribution be illegal because it's copyright infringement?

      Distribution is one of the other rights of a copyright holder. Again, it can in some cases not be an infringement tho
      • Can't be bothered dismantling all of your "but..but.. it's COPYING!" arguments but couldn't help myself with this one.

        >Is listening to someone, who didn't pay the RIAA, sing the copyrighted song Happy Birthday illegal?

        No, but then you are not creating a copy.

        So, going by that logic recording that person singing happy birthday and then listening to it later WOULD be copyright infringement? bu.. I thought time-shifting was legal in the US?

        Equating downloading a file to "it's creating a copy and that's ille

        • by Pofy (471469)
          >So, going by that logic recording that person singing happy birthday and then listening to it later
          >WOULD be copyright infringement? bu.. I thought time-shifting was legal in the US?

          That is why should have read and quooted and understood ALL of my answer. For example the few qords just following after the ones you quoted:

          " it may in many cases (but not always) be a copyright infringement"

          or perhaps the next sentence after that:

          " There are, depending on country), many cases when you CAN create a copy
        • singing happy birthday in a public place (or at a girl scouts campfire!) is considered a public performance, and that right is also reserved solely to copyright holders and those they licence to do so. Same principle as a bar with a jukebox, there's mechanisms in place to buy the licence to play the songs, and that money goes back to the various people with a stake (though not in a particularly fair manner)

          There's a bunch of rights covered under copyright law, including rights to the words, the rights to a
    • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:10AM (#14339003)
      IANAL, and the exact text of copyright law varies between countries, so it does depend upon your country, but the general argument goes something like this.

      Copyright is the right to make copies. Only the copyright holder can make and distribute copies. Fair use allows a defence against infringement in certain circumstances, but we'll assume for the sake of argument using a P2P app to grab a complete copy of a copyrighted work isn't one of them.

      Now, the person uploading a non-licenced copyrighted work is definitely breaking the law, as they are distributing. The question is, is the person downloading also making a copy? After all, the copy is actually assembled on the downloaders machine. In jurisdictions where you're allowed to make personal copies, it's possible you could argue you're just getting a rip of something you already own, or that you assumed the uploader had permission to distribute.

      Instead, they could try to get you with contributory infringement, i.e. you had knowledge of the infringement (making a copy) and materially contributed (i.e. your computer downloading the copy at your request)

      Uploaders are definitely at risk, legally, but downloaders are in a much greyer area, depending on wording and interpretation of the law. If you get caught in the act of downloading, or have a large collection of material which is obviously infringing copies, you may well face a lawsuit.

      Imagine the police turned up to arrest a street vendor selling what turns out to be dodgy music CDs while you're buying one. It'd be hard to get you for anything. Now imagine they catch you giving the guy a blank CD so he can copy something for you on the spot - it'd be much easier to get you for contributory infringement, especially if you already have a CD wallet full of things you don't have orginial copies of. Downloading is somewhat similar. As far as I've been able to check, all the P2P users lawsuits have been about uploading, though the media tend to use uploaded and downloaded interchangably, incorrectly.

      Either way, you're a lot safer being a leech, though you're definitely still taking somewhat of a risk.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:39AM (#14338843)
    I guess civil, otherwise she could just get a lawyer assigned to her.

    And will there be a jury?

    I don't think any jury would be willing to convict her. Which would set a nice precedent.
  • The music industry is shooting themselves in the foot, once again, with these lawsuits. Conceivably, many of the people being targeted in these lawsuits are using versions of Kazaa/Limewire/iMesh for which they have paid. The more computer-illiterate among them don't know the difference between paying for an ad-free program and paying for music.

    As an on-site computer technician, I've talked with many parents who didn't understand they were still taking a risk by letting their children download from Limewire Pro. They think since they paid for the program, they have paid for the music. They don't under the difference between peer-to-peer programs and legitimate music download services.

    I often think that the RIAA is going to turn many novice computer users off from online purchasing altogether because they are going after the unsophisticated user who doesn't understand copyright and what constitutes a legitimate channel and what does not. If they really want to stop online piracy, they need to go after the makers of the software, not the poor people they duped into believing that they had "purchased" music.

    • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:16AM (#14338912) Homepage Journal
      "I often think that the RIAA is going to turn many novice computer users off from online purchasing altogether"

      They would be ok with that. They aren't really the music industry, after all - they are the "distributing plastic discs" industry. With online purchasing dead they would hope people might buy plastic discs again.

      Their business is distribution - yet they want to continue to exist even when distribution is no longer necessary, or at least what minor amount is necessary is now handled by the customer. It's as if a trolley company wanted to stay in business after everyone started buying cars - the company sold off all its trolleys, sold off the rights-of-way, fired all the trolley conductors, but still wants you to pay them the fare every time you drive yourself in to work.

      • by monomania (595068) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:52AM (#14339072)

        They aren't really the music industry, after all - they are the "distributing plastic discs" industry. With online purchasing dead they would hope people might buy plastic discs again.

        And that bears repeating. Since when did we start calling them "The Music Industry" anyway? Used to be, we referred to them as "The Recording Industry". Music isn't an industry per se, it is (or was) an art form. Surely it's indicative of the way the argument has been framed in the favor of the RIAA that we mispeak so easily -- to the denigration of the true artists involved (the real producers of the 'product') and the false elevation of the RIAA to a privileged status of ownership.

        But I realize that to frame the "IP" argument in real terms (who really owns the work that's produced?) would laid bare more of the recording industries darkside than just the spurious lawsuits against consumer "pirates". And again it comes back to Copyright -- imagine for a moment, in a sane Copyright regime; that I, as the musical artist, possessed only the original exclusivity originally envisioned by the Framers -- then only that limited term could be contracted to a distributor/licensee of the work. After all, you can't legally sell what you don't own.

        Imagine then, a marketplace where musicians couldn't sell their souls for a recording contract (or be required to) because (if by 'souls' we mean the absurd "lifetime plus x years" of rights) they don't possess such rights in the first place. One could sell the extent of one's (reasonable) rights (say, 5 years?) which is close enough to the existing shelf life of the product in the industries marketing cycle anyway. After that, anyone could record and market the music (or a version of it) but, then, so could the artist themselves (John Fogerty, anyone?) or the fans themselves (ala Phish, the Dead, etc. or in fact the situation that is slowly being obtained sub rosa...). Of course Lessig's been saying somewhat the same all this time as well, in terms of how a reasonable regime would act in furtherance of the arts and of culture. Imagine the ramifications of it. Information may or may not want to be free, but culture certainly does, and will work to free itself of restraint by nature.

        Their business is distribution - yet they want to continue to exist even when distribution is no longer necessary, or at least what minor amount is necessary is now handled by the customer.

        What the recording industry is contending with now is the tendency of society to organize itself along such a more reasonable and natural (and much more efficient) mode of operation. That is real enterprise at work. The RIAA (and the MPAA et al.) are attempting through monopolism (a kind of state-assisted terrorism in this case) to maintain an artificial marketplace that technology and culture are conspiring to transcend. Personally, my money is on the latter agents of economic evolution. And the fact that it's all devolved into the hands of attorneys and accountants shows how close the end is near for this so-called "industry".

    • If they really want to stop online piracy, they need to go after the makers of the software, not the poor people they duped into believing that they had "purchased" music.

      Filesharing software can also be used for legal downloading, and if the RIAA can punish the authors of file sharing software because users used the software illegally, that's very dangerous (of course, such episodes have already played out in the courts). As far as I know, these software makers never say that their software's license in
  • by CokeBear (16811) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:46AM (#14338856) Journal
    And we all have an interest in her winning.

    Where can I make a donation to her legal defense fund?

    And why has the EFF not taken up the case?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:47AM (#14338962)
      Damn right! I know it means nothing posting AC, but I'd pledge 50 just get the satisfaction of kicking the RIAA in the nuts. Hell, it would make up for all I've saved on boycotting their rubbish for the last few years. But think beyond money here people. She is up against 'experts' in a civil lawsuit. What will be decided fundamentally affects us all and it will be decided on who can provide the most convincing case. And what are many of us here if not experts in technology and technology law? All this woman seems to have is spunky confidence and a will to stand up for herself. As a practicing computer scientist with 15 years experience I feel confident I could destroy their case on any *technical* point. Just off the top of my head without any knowledge of the case...

      Where did the hard disk come from?
      Was it AND/OR the OS cleanly installed and by whom?
      Who else had access to the machine, physical and remote?
      If the RIAA were able to access it
        i) did they trespass to do so?
        ii) does this not mean anybody else also had remote access to the machine?
      What evidence is there that the machine was not infected or part of a botnet?
      How did the RIAA get hold of any ISP logs?
      Do the logs conclusively prove a download was requested AND received?
      Do the logs conclusively prove she personally was the instigator, bound to that IP address/timeframe?
      If she had this data on her machine did she also have the means to decode it thus the means and intent to listen to it?
      Lets see a full audit of every piece of code on that machine!

      I'm sure y'all can do a lot better too. She shouldn't need to *hire experts*, she should have dozens of them gagging to jump into the fray and give the RIAA a bloody nose. I wonder why not. Is there something about this case that's not being aired?

      • I'm wondering how much sales the Majors have lost due to Boycott. I believe I've purchased maybe 2 CDs since 2001, the last one being in 2002.

        So when the sales are going down is it only because the file trading, or is there a lot coming from boycott ? My wife likes music more than I do ... watches American Idol, and has an iPod. If she wants to buy a song she goes to iTunes and buy the tracks she wants not the whole album. And I don't think she get new releases anymore, most of if being crap.

        I don't d/l mu
      • One other point about the logs:
        How did they make sure that their clock was in sync with the ISP's?
        Might matter in case of a dynamic IP address.
  • How do they know? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maxcray (541911) <cnystrom@gmail.com> on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:07AM (#14338895)
    How do they know what is on her computer? Did they raid her house for a civil suit, or do they have some sort of remote monitoring software?
    • Re:How do they know? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Motherfucking Shit (636021) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:26AM (#14339022) Journal
      How do they know what is on her computer? Did they raid her house for a civil suit, or do they have some sort of remote monitoring software?
      They performed a search of some P2P network, looking for people sharing a given file. They then recorded the IP address, timestamp, and filename of each result. Most likely, this was done via an automated process. Finally, they subpoenaed the ISP for the customer information corresponding to the IP address and timestamp they'd recorded.

      The RIAA's Achilles heel is that they do not actually download the file and verify its contents. This is why they've taken action against innocent people in the past; for example, they went after a professor named Usher for allegedly sharing songs by the rap artist Usher, because the word "Usher" appeared in the shared file names. The MPAA went after some GPL'd TCL code, claiming that it was X-Files episodes [sc.com], even though the file was barely 100KB. These organizations employ others to spider P2P networks looking for violations, then they shoot first and ask questions later.

      This is the exact case that defense lawyers - or defendants with no other choice but to act as their own lawyers - should be making. The RIAA sued this woman because an IP address that was (maybe) associated with her ISP account was (maybe) sharing a file with a title that (maybe) was related to someone else's copyrighted material, but (may or may not have) actually contained anyone else's copyrighted material. That's a lot of maybes, and we're still operating under the assumption that the RIAA and the ISP both had impeccably accurate data.

      If I were her lawyer, I'd make a video showing me creating a ~3MB file comprised of random data, naming it to reflect a popular song, sharing it on several P2P networks, searching for it and finding my own file in the results, then watching, perhaps over several days, as people downloaded my bogus file. Exhibit A: video evidence proving that a filename does not a copyright infringement make.

      If I were the RIAA, I'd start actually downloading the files that are supposedly being shared, playing them to verify that the contents are as advertised, and recording _that_ on video. Unfortunately for them, it's a bit difficult to automate that.
      • It's such a shame that so many people on Slashdot have no idea about this process. Some of them are even suggesting that the RIAA must have hacked into her computer to find out what she had on her harddrive. Which is indicitive of the ongoing misconception that people are being sued for downloading songs.. As you have pointed out, they are being sued because it is believed they are offering the songs to others. I don't know if the reporters that cover these cases are just incompitent or are deliberately
    • Re:How do they know? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOsPam.hotmail.com> on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:56AM (#14339081) Journal
      Did they raid her house for a civil suit, or do they have some sort of remote monitoring software?

      The RIAA used a modified version of Kazaa Lite to access the Kazaa network and track down people who shared copyrighted music. Kazaa Lite is an unauthorised version of the Kazaa client, which is why Sharman Networks is suing the RIAA for copyright infringement in a separate suit.
  • by catman (1412)
    I just want to know - how does the RIAA know that those files were on her computer?
    They may have a civil case against her - but I wonder if she has a criminal case against whoever searched her computer?
  • They're her kids too, and she's responsible for what they do as well. Have you people ever heard of "rationalization"? I'm as crooked as many of you, but at least I admit it....
    • "If the downloading was done on her computer, Santangelo thinks it may have been the work of a young friend of her children." I know that at my university the internet contract stipulaes that letting anyone else use my computer while it is connected to the internet is cause to have my connection severed (and I eat the semester's prepayment.) Not sure about liability if I go to the bathroom and come back to find someone was busted at my machine.
  • by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:32AM (#14339035) Homepage Journal
    If I were Mrs. Santangelo I'd simply say:
    "I use this OS named Windows. Files and programs appears every while without any intervention of mine.
    For example some days ago I was playing that nice disk by Sony BMG and some new programs and file appeared on my PC disk. I have asked about this to Microsoft and Sony and both say it's normal. So I don't mind when new files appear on my disk!"
    Moreover, if Mrs. Santangelo stopped her firewall/antivirus/low-caffeine program, if any, she could also prove that strange things happen to her computer thanks to a number of "special features" (someone dares to call them "bugs") of her pre-bundled PC.
  • Basicly, in order to win in court, they have to prove (IIRC) that the machine owned by the defendant was serving a file AND that the file is something they hold copyright to.

    Whereas, to extract a settlement, all they need is enough to suggest that the defendant was sharing SOMETHING and the defendant will probobly pay up (especially if they do actually have illegal audio files somewhere, be they the files that the RIAA mentions in the lawsuit or otherwise).

    The burden of proof is much less for the "convice t
  • by dentar (6540) on Monday December 26, 2005 @10:48AM (#14339505) Homepage Journal
    ....has a fool for a client. (Attorneys excepted.)
  • by SiliconEntity (448450) on Monday December 26, 2005 @02:09PM (#14340211)
    There are a lot of falsehoods and misleading information being reported about this case. A full set of court documents [blogspot.com] is available; scroll down to "Elektra v. Santangelo".

    First, Ms. Santangelo is not being charged with just downloading. The complaint actually says that Ms. Santangelo used Kazaa "to download the Copyrighted Recordings, to distribute the Copyrighted Recordings to the public, and/or to make the Copyrighted Recordings available for distribution to others." As evidence for this charge they present a series of screen shots of Kazaa showing an account that is offering thousands of songs available for upload. Their claim is that this account corresponds to Ms. Santangelo's computer, although no evidence for that has been presented yet at this stage of the proceedings.

    They did not inspect Ms. Santangelo's computer, which supposedly is in her ex-husband's possession and has had the disk wiped due to virus infections. They got the data from Kazaa by looking at the files which were (supposedly) being offered by her computer for upload.

    So this is not a case of "downloading", it is a case of downloading and/or offering to upload. If that account actually does correspond to Ms. Santangelo's computer, the simplest explanation is that her kids were doing it, and she is responsible for their actions.

    Even if it is the kids' friend, it's unlikely that he downloaded thousands of songs onto their computer without the kids knowing it. And even if he did, Ms. Santangelo could still be liable herself, and then she would have to sue the friend to recover damages on her own. In other words, she would owe millions of dollars to the RIAA, and then she would sue the friend for millions to cover her debts. But the RIAA would not depend on her success in suing the friend.

    In short, instead of paying a few thousand to settle this and make it go away (and punishing the kids for getting the family into this mess), she is now out many times that already, and is likely to end up owing an astronomical sum. Her only recourse will be to declare bankruptcy.

    There are two lessons from this. The first is that parents ought to keep better track of what their kids (and their kids' friends) are doing on the family computer. But the deeper lesson is that even with cases like this in the press, the odds are still so much against any given person being caught that most parents still don't worry about it. Unless or until we reach the point where most people have personal friends who have been sued, or at least friends of friends, nobody is going to take these threats seriously. At this point it's still like being struck by lightning or killed by bears, a theoretical threat that is so abstract and rare that few people take it seriously.
  • attorney's blog (Score:3, Interesting)

    by meeotch (524339) on Monday December 26, 2005 @04:23PM (#14340933) Homepage
    Check out her Attorney's blog here [blogspot.com]. Some of the comments are pretty rough.
    This doesn't exactly sound like what you said a month ago "We will fight to the end. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't take on something unless I am prepared to fight to the end. Also, anyone who knows me knows that the one thing I can't stand is a bully. The RIAA will give up long before we do, because sooner or later it will dawn upon them that their attorneys are taking them for a ride."

    So if you feel the case is so airtight, are you abandoning Ms. Santangelo in order to save the RIAA money? I mean since you said she would get damages involving the RIAA paying her legal costs once she wins. I'd still like to believe in you, but the fish stinks at the head.

    Ouch!

    mitch

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