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The Courts Music Piracy

Supreme Court May Tune In To Music Download Case 339

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-on-high dept.
droopus writes "The US Supreme Court is weighing into the first RIAA file-sharing case to reach its docket, requesting that the music labels' litigation arm respond to a case testing the so-called 'innocent infringer' defense to copyright infringement. The case pending before the justices concerns a federal appeals court's February decision ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 — $750 a track — for file-sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader. The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400 — or $200 per song. That's an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright act. Harper is among the estimated 20,000 individuals the RIAA has sued for file-sharing music. The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying."
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Supreme Court May Tune In To Music Download Case

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  • Look (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:33PM (#33665416) Homepage

    We all know the girl was a bit stupid ("I didn't know it was illegal"? Seriously? That's your defense?) What should be focused on is the judgement...$750 per track? What's bad is that's on the low-end compared to some of their other lawsuits :/

  • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:36PM (#33665462) Homepage Journal

    Really RIAA? Really? You are accusing someone else of "relentless legal jockeying". /head asplodes

  • The MPAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dracos (107777) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:37PM (#33665468)

    ... is complaining about someone else's relentless legal jockeying? How much blacker can the pot get while impugning the kettle's color? Until this girl (or any other individual) has the means to write and buy their own federal legislation, the MPAA should STFU.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:41PM (#33665538) Journal
    If I'm going to face a life time punishment (how long it takes to pay off a million dollar fine), it might as well be for something worthy.
  • Vexatious? No $#@! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bornagainpenguin (1209106) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:41PM (#33665540)

    The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying.

    Since the advent of these cases it has been clear that the intent was to bury people financially and for the **AA to use the courts as a bludgeon to scare the rest of the populace--not the pursuit of justice. Now they're upset because someone with nothing to lose (ruinous legal judgments that cannot reasonably be paid back by an individual tends to create that mentality) has decided to use their own strategy against them? Tough $#@! **AA. Bed. Made. Lie.

    How do you like this taste of your own medicine? Hopefully this kind of thing will catch on and more people will choose to drag their cases out for as long as possible and this will cost the **AA so much more than they anticipated.

    --bornagainpenguin

  • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

    by veganboyjosh (896761) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:45PM (#33665604)
    Ignorance is no excuse, and all of that, but I really think we'll start to see more of this. As filesharing becomes easier on the user's end, how is a new/naive/young user supposed to know it's illegal? I mean, type the name of any current pop artist into Google, followed by "rapidshare", "yousendit" or one of the myriad other large file sharing services, and usually one of the first links Google finds is the file itself, ready for download.

    The fact that these types of cases are coming up again and again make clear that it's a contentious issue, at least for some. Someone out there takes issue with all this content being freely available.

    To be clear, I'm not arguing one way or another on the filesharing/copyright issue. I'm just saying that as we move forward with the web and user interfaces, and searchability, then a 12 year old kid who has some brains and can figure out some clever search "hacks" becomes able to just find files that are publicly available to download with no warning, no mention of "this could be copyrighted", etc.

    I've tried explaining the process for finding files like this to my father, who is probably a lot like most of your parents. Able to get online, but not really understanding the full intrecacies of the interwebs. I tried explaining how illegal this is, and that it's up to him to take that leap. I'm sure there are teenagers and preteens out there figuring this stuff out, too. Do you think that they're explaining the legalities and potential consquences to their friends, when they pass on the instructions?

    As this knowledge passed down to further "generations" ofkids, and technology progresses, I could actually see how an ignorance defense could be fairly legitimate.
  • Why stop there? Kill the motherfuckers who hired him too.

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:48PM (#33665670)
    How is the RIAA supposed to win if those pesky file sharers won't stop defending themselves?!?
  • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hcmtnbiker (925661) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:50PM (#33665710)
    And just out of curiosity can someone tell me why punitive damages should be awarded to the plaintiff? Why should someone make more money in a court of law then they otherwise would. I mean real damages I'm ok with, they're real. Punitive damages though are just some arbitrary number assigned to case. The plaintiffn has no right to that money, it doesn't belong to them, so why should they be awarded it.
  • Re:Look (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:51PM (#33665726)

    How many copies of songs was the girl proven to have made?

  • by jgagnon (1663075) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:51PM (#33665730)

    It's like any other extremist view. They're right, you're wrong. Any action you take other than being wrong and paying for it is a complete waste of time.

  • Constitutionality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lavagolemking (1352431) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:52PM (#33665744)
    What we should be considering is whether the $750-to-200,000-per-file fine is constitutional, more than whether someone knew it was copyright. Seriously, find me another crime (especially civil) that has a heavier penalty, even a punitive one.
  • Cheerleader? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:53PM (#33665750)

      How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

  • Re:Look (Score:2, Insightful)

    by equex (747231) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:53PM (#33665752) Homepage
    Ignorance is an excuse as long as there is no law classes in the public school system. You cant assume people just 'know' law.
  • Re:Funny. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robot256 (1635039) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:54PM (#33665770)
    Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but accusation is the highest form of hypocrisy. The greatest hypocrites always accuse others of what they themselves are guilty of.
  • Re:Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dyingtolive (1393037) <brad@arnett.notforhire@org> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:56PM (#33665792)
    She herself? One.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:00PM (#33665856)
    It's more silly than that. From what I've read, the defendant wants the case to go to trial instead of being forced into a settlement. That's "vexatious" in the eyes of the RIAA.
  • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:00PM (#33665864)

    Yes, but then at least CEO2 would worry a little about pissing consumers off.

  • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Surt (22457) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:01PM (#33665898) Homepage Journal

    It's not wrong, it's illegal. There's an important difference.

  • Damages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koterica (981373) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:02PM (#33665908) Journal
    If the 'innocent infringer' defense doesn't fly, how about awarding full damages? $0.99 cents per song seems reasonable. If she left bittorent running till the share ratio hit 2.0, maybe she should even pay &1.98 per song. Thats like 70 bucks, or three albums. The price is steep, but she did "steal" the songs. The RIAA deserves to be fairly compensated for their losses.
  • Re:Cheerleader? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by schon (31600) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:03PM (#33665920)

    It doesn't have any impact on the case, but it does have an impact on the readers.

    Think about it - this is a site filled with pasty white guys who live in their parents basement. You mention one of the parties is a cheerleader, we're all gonna click the link to see if there's a picture.

    We still won't read the article, but we'll go looking for the pic, and so the submitter will get a few more ad impressions. :)

  • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath (553296) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:04PM (#33665926)

    What I find more entertaining is how the MafiAA - who've been slapped back and forth for filing false testimony (perjury), filing mountains of paperwork trying to bury defendants (barratry), caught in price-fixing collusion (conspiracy), falsifying evidence (forgery), providing "evidence" that was the result of deliberate computer crime on the part of their own "investigators", using "investigators" that they knew were not licensed for the investigations, and repeatedly filing SLAPP lawsuits against groups like the EFF - have the temerity to still be pushing this garbage.

    Oh, and then there's their abusive filings of dozens if not hundreds of lawsuits at once, based on nothing but "information and belief" with no actual evidence, where they try to get the identities of people and then harass and threaten them in what has been best described as an organized, big-business-sanctioned extortion ring.

    What a lot of these judges in the past have written at the lower-court level, especially when they greenlight these extortion racket tactics, make me suspect bribery to be in play as well.

  • Corporate lap dogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:06PM (#33665960) Journal

    The "conservative" SCOTUS will probably rule in favor of the record industry, tightening the strangle hold corporations have on the US. They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government (in the form of police and secret police powers) and corporations for at least 20 years now.

  • Re:Look (Score:2, Insightful)

    by muindaur (925372) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:07PM (#33665986) Journal

    I agree the sum awarded is excessive. If she appealed that in the Supreme Court she can get it reduced as the Constitution does place a 'reasonable amount' on damages and fines.

    The case of McDonalds v. the Coffee in Lap Lady for example.

    McDs appealed the million plus dollar ruling and had it reduced to $300,000. The Supreme Court decided it was excessive to award over a million for her injuries.

    From a Business Law standpoint my professor taught me this. Check to see IF they can pay the fine AND then sue. It's not worth the legal expense if you can't get back the legal costs. There are even judges that will give no award if the defendant has no money.

    I'm not a lawyer, just studying to be an Accountant, but it makes sense.

    It doesn't matter if that is the fine imposed by the law either. The Supreme Court can rule that in the case of home file sharers(not considered in the original law) there are exceptions if they are not generating money from it: since the original law was to fine the people making and selling bootlegs.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:11PM (#33666048)

    Well, yes and no. The RIAA's position is that her petition has been already asked and answered by the courts, twice.

    What gets me is that if the RIAA is correct, then her settlement offer of $1200 should have been acceptable, but they refused it. So their own vexatious accusation makes them in the wrong for rejecting a fair settlement, which is in and of itself vexatious if not frivolous.

  • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:14PM (#33666098)

    What I find more entertaining is how the MafiAA - who've been slapped back and forth for filing false testimony (perjury), filing mountains of paperwork trying to bury defendants (barratry), caught in price-fixing collusion (conspiracy), falsifying evidence (forgery), providing "evidence" that was the result of deliberate computer crime on the part of their own "investigators", using "investigators" that they knew were not licensed for the investigations, and repeatedly filing SLAPP lawsuits against groups like the EFF - have the temerity to still be pushing this garbage.

    Yes, and yet the girl is "vexatious" for demanding that her legal right to a fair trial be upheld.

    The fact that today's music largely sucks is far from the only reason I haven't bought music in years. (And no, I don't download it illegally either).

  • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:15PM (#33666118)

    If you've just severed the head of your enemy and placed it on a pike in the field, how many folks do you think will step up to take his place? This is what we call "Setting an example".

  • Re:Damages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:18PM (#33666168) Homepage

    That's not fair though. The whole point of punitive damages is to punish the infringer, not just force them to buy it. If all you pay for is the price of the song, then why ever buy anything? Just pirate it - the worst that happens is you have to pay for it. Because there was willful intent here, I think the rule of treble damages applies.

    So that is $2.97 per song.

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:27PM (#33666324) Homepage Journal

    They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government

    Except for those pro-gun 2nd Amendment rulings in Heller and McDonald.

    The "conservative" SCOTUS

    Pssst, your editorial bias is showing!

  • Re:Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:36PM (#33666434)

    Except that she never had the CDs. Ever. At any point. It was merely the fact that CDs have the copyright notice on them was sufficient.

  • Re:Look (Score:4, Insightful)

    by uglyduckling (103926) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:38PM (#33666472) Homepage
    She's not asking to be excused, she's asking for damages to be reasonably representative of the action (e.g. 'making available' a track that costs 99 cents to buy). She was a child when she used Kazaa and hadn't linked the tiny copyright notices on the back of audio CDs with the action of downloading from Kazaa. Many, many people don't understand this. I've also met people who believe that Ubuntu on a CDR must be illegal 'because it was downloaded'. Ruining someone's financial status in their early twenties for something that they didn't believe could be wrong is cruel and wrong.
  • Re:Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:39PM (#33666476) Journal
    The point of this legal argument is to show intent, an important modifier in all aspects of a case. Its not the TOTAL defense, merely one aspect of it. Its just a piece of the puzzle in painting a picture of the exact nature of the crime.
  • by jlf278 (1022347) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:48PM (#33666628)
    I think this is a case where new legislation is obviously needed. The are significant and novel differences between torrent file sharing and pre-existing methods of copyright infringement and bootleg distribution. I don't think you can draw a logical conclusion of what the RIAA should be entitled to or how much statuatory damages should be assessed from more traditional pirating cases. In any case, anything beyond $20 a track is ridiculous.
  • Re:Funny. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray@@@beckermanlegal...com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:52PM (#33666676) Homepage Journal

    And here I thought it was the RIAA who was vexatious.

    Yeah, anyone who doesn't write them a check is vexatious.

  • Re:Look (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:55PM (#33666714)

    And then the public defenders realize their budget is based on their clients losing and being forced to pay? Wait, what?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:56PM (#33666728)

    I've been waiting for this.

    Not necessarily with RIAA/MPAA, but you railroad enough people, and someone is going to come back and jab a spike through your forehead.

  • Re:Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spazdor (902907) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @03:00PM (#33666788)

    Doesn't prevent them from experiencing perverse incentives, and it doesn't mean we can trust them to allocate parking space and enforcement in a way that's motivated only by concerns of public usefulness and not by the city's unrelated budget headaches.

  • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray@@@beckermanlegal...com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @03:07PM (#33666864) Homepage Journal

    By forcing the issue, Harper is scaring them into the one scenario they were never willing to face - playing the game through to the end.

    Well said.

  • Re:Checks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @03:18PM (#33667060) Journal

    Not good enough Ray.

    You mean "anyone who doesn't write them a check every hour of every day" is vexatious. Sleeping is no excuse!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @03:19PM (#33667070)

    I am quite surprised that this option does not appear more frequently. Slashdot seems to have a large number of Americans who claim to be willing to keep arms to fight the Government, but should we not extend that to the Government's masters as well?

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @04:07PM (#33667714) Journal

    This is why the supreme court is so vital. It does not take ANY bullshit of ANY kind. When faced with technical issues judges do not understand, they become quite pissed at people who want to wave a lot of jargon and cloud issues; the Supreme Court Justice position is one of the highest in the country, and making a mistake has such wide-reaching impacts that you WILL be embarrassed, publicly, for being shammed. These people do not want to be fucked with while the entire Western world watches them made fools, and they WILL bitchslap you for trying.

    They're afraid of facing someone that isn't a mindless court drone going "you broke the law, sorry." The Supreme Court has to look at the law and decide if it's constitutional. The constitution isn't a law; it's a document that tries-- TRIES-- to frame what our founding fathers envisioned. It's not a "living document," it doesn't "change interpretation to match the times." The technical details of the laws are often unclear and have to change to match the times; but the supreme court is tasked with understanding what the actual goal was and making decisions in that context.

    That means the supreme court's job is to decide, for example, that Copyright Law was framed in order to prevent a China syndrome where people (legal businesses or not) make use of other peoples' work in a significantly harmful manner (i.e. mass-copying of DVDs and selling online for a dollar each); and that the point of copyright law was to PROTECT business and not to DESTROY individuals. This would be backed up by interpretation of copyright law's own Fair Use clause, as evidence that we didn't want to completely chain individuals; as well as by considerations of cruel and unusual punishment (destruction of livelihood) and excessive fines as discussed in the US Constitution.

    The RIAA doesn't want to face a court that has to think and reason instead of blindly going "Well some law somewhere says this is bad and this is what happens when you're bad."

  • by Idiomatick (976696) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @04:27PM (#33667986)
    I figure after about 10 not many people would be willing to take the job.
  • Re:Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @06:46PM (#33669882)

    Obligatory Obviousness:

    The RIAA is an association; An umbrella front man. Essentially a litigation middle man for various recording industries.

    The RIAA does not need to collect "damages"; since the RIAA does not own copyrights; it's members do.

    Personally, I would spin it this way: The purpose of copuyright is to promote the creation of createive works. The recording industry's recording equipment does not produce creative works; It is used to fascilitate the creation, BY artists.

    Thus, the purpose of copyright is to pay artists. (The artists pay for the use of the recording equipment with their contracts.)

    Naturally, It should follow that any punitive damages should be paid directly to artists.

  • Re:Damages? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khchung (462899) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @10:23PM (#33671518) Journal

    That's not fair though. The whole point of punitive damages is to punish the infringer, not just force them to buy it

    If that's real reason for punitive damages, explain why the money does NOT goes to the government just like any other fines. The winning side's Legal fees should be awarded separately.

    Since the punitive damage money goes to the other side, it seems to me the reason for punitive damages is just to encourage more lawsuits.

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