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The Courts

Judge Won't Punish Lawyer For Anti-RIAA Blogging 160

Posted by kdawson
from the out-of-the-kitchen-with-you dept.
xander_zone_xxx writes with news that Ray Beckerman, known around here as NewYorkCountryLawyer, was not a "vexatious" litigant, as the RIAA claimed. In the same ruling the judge dismissed Beckerman's counter-claims against the RIAA. (We discussed the claims and counters a year back.) "An attorney defending against a music-piracy lawsuit didn't cross ethical bounds by filing motions broadly attacking the recording industry and posting them on his blog, a magistrate judge has ruled, rejecting demands from the RIAA for monetary sanctions. Attorney Ray Beckerman was 'less than forthcoming at times' in defending a client against an RIAA lawsuit, but the music industry's concerns were 'largely overstated,' New York Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy wrote Friday."
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Judge Won't Punish Lawyer For Anti-RIAA Blogging

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  • Keep it cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:04PM (#29734555)

    Yay for him, but may he beware of being too passionate and involved into what he defends/attacks. Lawyering is best served cold.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:10PM (#29734637)

    Indeed, parts of the judge's statement sounds familiar.

    “...took an unusually aggressive stance and, at times, veered into hyperbole and gratuitous attacks on the recording industry as a whole...”

    Take out the "the recording industry" and put in "music fans" and it applies to the the RIAA. Actually, that would be an understatement.

    The RIAAs statement:

    The RIAA, in seeking sanctions, said Beckerman “has maintained an anti-recording industry blog during the course of this case and has consistently posted virtually every one of his baseless motions on his blog seeking to bolster his public relations campaign and embarrass plaintiffs,” the RIAA wrote in court briefs. “Such vexatious conduct demeans the integrity of these judicial proceedings and warrants this imposition of sanctions.”

    If they were talking about their anti-consumer lobbying instead of anti-recording industry blog and abusive lawsuits instead of blog postings, it would apply to them. Demeans the integirty of judicial proceedings? Jesus, they're using them to try to bully people to keep supporting their exploitative buisiness practices. A blog post, even if it were -actually- just plain mean and biased, does nothing to cheapen our courts compared to suing individuals because you haven't adapted to current technology.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:14PM (#29734693) Homepage

    The RIAA claimed that Lindor, her family and Beckerman "intentionally provided false information, attempted to misdirect plaintiffs as to relevant facts and events, and concealed critical information and evidence regarding the infringement at issue."

    In other words, NYCL has delivered information as required but in the way that was the most advantageous to the interests of the defendant he faithfully represents. NYCL does exactly what the plaintiff's attorneys do by being less than forthcoming with evidence that might harm their case and by characterising their evidence in ways that are not consistent with the facts in the case. (I'm sure NYCL might have exception to this assertion, but when it comes to lawyers, I have a presumption of guilt until proven innocent. [smirk])

    In essence, the plaintiff's lawyers complain that NYCL is fighting fire with fire, or in their case, bullshit with bullshit and they can't handle it.

    Frankly, I can't believe the plaintiff attorneys can perform this "pot calling the kettle black" act with a straight face. Given that most judges were lawyers themselves, I find it unimaginable that they don't already see through the bullshit.

  • WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:20PM (#29734763)
    Excuse me IANAL, but isn't the truth never libelous? Even opinion is supposed to receive the utmost protection. Libel is reserved for those know knowingly lie simply to inflict harm. I mean sure the RIAA doesn't agree with Ray's angle, but since when is well stated opinion backed by dozens of sources, and agreed upon by pretty much everybody who isn't a RIAA fascist suddenly become illegal to share? Thank god the judge dismissed it, but the fact that he didn't slap them in hard for trying to silence a critic makes me understand why in the eyes of the law, we the people are fucked.
  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:26PM (#29734857) Homepage Journal
    Frankly, I can't believe the plaintiff attorneys can perform this "pot calling the kettle black" act with a straight face. Given that most judges were lawyers themselves, I find it unimaginable that they don't already see through the bullshit.

    It seems fairly clear that the judge did see through the BS. Just because someone files a silly complaint and the judge doesn't shoot it down outright doesn't mean they are 'buying' the BS.

    I would imagine that many judges are inclined to hear out both side's arguments fully, in order to give the case a fair shake. This probably involves listening to a lot of stupid blathering over the course of a career as a judge. If you just dismiss everything outright, I would think that would make the case more likely to be appealed.

    Also, there is an old saying about giving someone enough rope to hang themselves...
  • by RIAAShill (1599481) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:41PM (#29735005)

    Oh, going and doing some independent research, huh? Well, umm... thanks ;)

    Well, not that independent. The decision was the first link in the article. Instead of reading the article, I just read the decision. When I saw your post, I went back to it and searched for vexatious to see if you what you said was accurate.

    It seems like a decent opinion. The decision to levy sanctions should not be taken lightly. Neither plaintiffs nor defendants should be discouraged from exercising their legal rights.

  • Let me just add (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:44PM (#29735025)
    ... my congratulations to Ray. It's not every day that somebody has the courage to descend into the belly of The Beast and beard them in their own den.

    Ray is one of those 2% of lawyers that the other 98% make things bad for.

  • by twmcneil (942300) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:48PM (#29735073)

    "The question is not whether the court approves of the plaintiff's litigation tactics, but whether the plaintiff acted for the purpose of harassing or annoying the defendant."... "Plaintiffs have doggedly pursued their copyright infringement claim, but I find no evidence of undue vexatiousness or ill motive on their part."

    Hello! That's exactly what they are doing. Chasing after other family members not a party to the action and trying over and over to find the existence some magical external drive.

    Summary sucks as usual but I think NYCL got a bit of the shaft on this one.

    Keep up the good work Ray.

  • Re:Yay for Ray (Score:3, Insightful)

    by omega_dk (1090143) <alpha.dk@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:50PM (#29735089)

    Methinks you either greatly overestimate the number of songs that were prevented from being entered into the public domain, underestimated the number of songs in the public domain/that would still be under copyright had he won, or completely misunderstand the Eldred case.

  • About Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:01PM (#29735237)

    Ray Beckman has been fighting an uphill battle against the recording industry for years, and it's past time he got a bit more recognition for his efforts. A lot of people don't appreciate that every time one of the RIAA's outrageous tactics receives even limited support in a court of law, that tactic will inevitably make its way into normal corporate practice.

    This struggle is about a lot more than alleged theft of music. It's about abuse of the legal system by corporations and individuals with deep pockets as they enforce their will on average people by threatening to bankrupt them in court if they dare to fight back against blatantly unfair practices.

    I have great respect for Ray Beckman. We need a thousand more like him.

  • by jd (1658) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:02PM (#29735253) Homepage Journal

    To me, part of the problem is the US legal system itself. Both sides sought to be obstructive, in their own ways. Both sides were guilty of mud-slinging. Both sides made it hard for the judge to make any kind of reasoned decision.

    But I cannot blame the lawyers for this, because this is how the system itself is set up. There is little interest in the truth, especially when a favorable lie could get you so much more. The lawyers, by mistreating reality and harassing their opponents merely did what they were paid to do, and did a good job of it.

    If you don't like the conduct of either side (and I certainly loath the conduct of the RIAA lawyers), don't yell at those who are just doing their jobs. That won't make any difference. You've gotta dig deeper. Those playing the game will always opt for the best strategy, so change the rules and the strategy - and players - will follow.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:19PM (#29735485)

    ...if you're not getting shot at, you're not doing your job right."

    Seriously, I think it's great that the RIAA has decided that Mr. Beckerman is enough of a threat to where he needs to be silenced. Don't you? That means he's on to something. He's hit them in a sensitive spot. The enemy has let us know that something has hurt them. And that something is exposure and scrutiny. Enough of that and one day their racket will be over. That's what they fear. The Truth. They know it, and now we know it.

    So keep it up NYCL! We're all rooting for you!

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:45PM (#29735867) Journal

    Whatever.

    It just sounds like RIAA's lawyers are whining like babies. I read about a similar case where a private individual created a "fan website" for a local mall that was being built. It included preliminary maps, list of future stores, et cetera. When the mall was finished the owners demanded the fan website be yanked, and the ISP complied. The mall's lawyers acted in a manner that I certainly consider "vexatious" such as providing *thousands* of pages in documents, when the individual simply asked for ONE piece of paper during the discovery phase of the trial. He was forced to try to sort through all this trash, and eventually turned to the ACLU for help.

    The case eventually reached the SCOTUS who sided with the fan's right to free speech and owning a personal fan website. They also ordered the mall's lawyers to pay the bills incurred.

    To this day they still haven't paid.

    Why? They claim since the ACLU represented the individual he has no costs (which is flat wrong - he incurred about $1000 prior to the ACLU arrivng to help). This is the way lawyers act - like toadies - not even bothering to follow a clear directive from the Supreme Court. RIAA's whining is nothing more than two-year-olds throwing temper tantrums. What NYCL did was represent his plaintiff, as he's *required* to do per the law, and he acted no differently than how RIAA's own lawyers act in their vigorous defenses of copyright for their clients (including mailing-out vexatious "Pay us $5000 or else" letter to citizens).

  • Hrmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:47PM (#29735889)

    Whether or not you believe he is making it a better country isn't the issue, either... -He- believes that (and so do many others) and he's working on his beliefs.

    That's an admirable thing.

    So you're saying he's kinda like Jack Thompson?

  • by Paracelcus (151056) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:26PM (#29736453) Journal

    We've lost Habeas corpus, free assembly, freedom of association, freedom of speech, keep & bear arms. Look around, listen to public and "free speech" radio, talk to your more erudite friends about the post 911 expansion of government powers and see if it's not true.

  • by ubercam (1025540) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:21PM (#29737397)

    I would imagine that many judges are inclined to hear out both side's arguments fully, in order to give the case a fair shake. This probably involves listening to a lot of stupid blathering over the course of a career as a judge. If you just dismiss everything outright, I would think that would make the case more likely to be appealed.

    I'd be inclined to agree with that. On the TV shows like Judge Judy and the like, the judge actually listens to what both parties have to say, every time, no matter how ridiculous the stories or how batshit insane the people are... they kind of have to don't they? The legal system wouldn't make sense otherwise. You might as well just toss a coin if that were the case.

    Many people in the Slashdot universe also seem to forget or ignore the fact that they're biased as hell against the MAFIAA (even calling it that shows incredible bias... I'm not trying to hide mine) and when they see them attacking Mr. Ray "Knight in Shining Armour" Beckermann, OF COURSE it's wrong and they should be thrown out of court! How DARE they?!?

    For what it's worth, I too think the MAFIAA is being rather hypocritical and litigious, and I heavily dislike their tactic of apparently suing the incredibly vulnerable (poor, old, etc) due to the increased likelihood of winning or settling. Their other tactics are also disgusting, but no need to repeat them for the umpteenth time. Hopefully the tables will turn at some point and they will lose a huge, high profile case WITH prejudice and become the laughing stock of the world for decades to come. That day can't come quickly enough. However, it's not for us to decide the frivolousness of their claims. That's the judge's job, and to do so he/she has to hear both sides, as ridiculous as they may both be.

  • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:35PM (#29737611) Homepage Journal

    ...if you're not getting shot at, you're not doing your job right." Seriously, I think it's great that the RIAA has decided that Mr. Beckerman is enough of a threat to where he needs to be silenced. Don't you? That means he's on to something. He's hit them in a sensitive spot. The enemy has let us know that something has hurt them. And that something is exposure and scrutiny. Enough of that and one day their racket will be over. That's what they fear. The Truth. They know it, and now we know it. So keep it up NYCL! We're all rooting for you!

    Thank you Weaselmancer, much appreciated. Damned right I'm "on to something". The truth, which, as you accurately observe, is what they fear. Like vampires & ghouls fear the light of day, the RIAA lawyers fear the truth.

  • by Schmorgluck (1293264) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:37PM (#29737639)

    I'm happy they lost, but a lawyer commenting on a judicial process they're involved in as counsel has both special leniencies and special limitations to what he's allowed to say, compared to an ordinary citizen. I'm not shocked the courts found it worth examination.

    Since you mention Louis of France, and assuming you mean Louis XVI, it's a bit excessive to call him a tyrant. He held far less power than his predecessors, and genuinely attempted to reform France but failed mostly because of his lack of authority over French aristocracy. He wasn't either the idiot some depict, he just hadn't much political skill, and was more interested in sciences and technology than in politics. If anything, Louis XV was far worse, despite all the flamboyance of his reign. Louis XVI certainly lacked the ability to adapt to the changes of his time, but he wasn't insensitive to the ideal of liberty. If his support to the American independance had been only motivated by a geostrategic agenda, he wouldn't have needed La Fayette to convince him to go for it.

  • Praise for NYCL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whuffo (1043790) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @05:16PM (#29738213) Homepage Journal
    He's a competent attorney, and knows better than any of the laymen here what the risks are of the choices he makes. But there's something very special happening here; knowing the risks and facing a huge and implacable enemy he's sticking fairly closely to the path of truth - even though it may be expensive or uncomfortable to him.

    He can see the true outlines of the questions being decided - and they're much more important than many of the commentators here may imagine. It's not solely about protecting some pirate from having to pay for their downloads - it's also about the music cartel and if they should be allowed to exert total control over the production and distribution of music. While we've been snoozing they've carved out a legal niche where they crouch and work out ways to take even more control for themselves.

    Those cartel members are full of self-importance and those stories you hear about "pay per play" or putting independent outlets out of business aren't bedtime stories - these are things the cartel wants and they'll get them and more if nobody stands up to oppose them. Those who think that downloading a few more tunes will make a difference are fooling themselves; they're playing the cartel's game.

    It's OK if most of the folks stick to their nice soft beds and don't get involved in important social problems like this one. But we need a few who will - NYCL is one, who else will stand up and fight for the truth?

  • by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @06:14PM (#29738891)

    The sad part is that it's exactly that. Whereas "5gs" is the settlement they demand, and "all your money" is how fast you'll go bankrupt keeping a lawyer on the clock.

    Even sadder is that, unlike "true extortion", doing it with lawyers is completely legal.

  • Re:About Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @07:19PM (#29739393) Homepage Journal

    I am curious what NYCL thinks about "loser pays" though.

    I'm not in favor of it. I think it ups the ante, and therefore makes it even harder for people without lots of money to have access to the courts. Copyright law in the US does, however, have a modified "loser pays" rule; the prevailing party may be entitled to attorneys fees.

  • soooo... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:09PM (#29740655)

    Should I be worried about posting anti RIAA messages on slashdot?

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