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Piracy The Courts

Federal Judge Dismisses Movie Piracy Complaint 225

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the steve-seagal-will-punch-them-instead dept.
cluedweasel writes "A Federal judge in Medford, OR has dismissed a piracy case lodged against 34 Oregonians. Judge Ann Aiken ruled that Voltage Pictures LLC unfairly lumped the defendants into what she called a 'reverse class action suit' to save on legal expenses and possibly to intimidate them into paying thousands of dollars for viewing a movie that could be bought or rented for less than $10." The judge was not enthused that they offered to settle for $7500 while noting that potential penalties could be as much as $150,000.
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Federal Judge Dismisses Movie Piracy Complaint

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  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willthiswork89 (2885827) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:42AM (#43732215)
    It's about time the court system grow a backbone and say something to these wankers. What really needs to happen is a lawsuit filed for intimidation by the defendants.
  • Mass Extortion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:43AM (#43732221)

    It's about time judges start to see these campaigns as the mass extortion cases that they are. If this was being done by anyone else there would have been RICO charges filed long ago. These cases have nothing to do with preserving copyright and everything to do with extorting the public. A $7500 settlement instead of a $150,000 for a $10 movie, how on earth can this possibly be anything other than sheer extortion?

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:48AM (#43732267)

    If judgments only made me pay for what I stole, there'd be no incentive NOT to steal! It would become a "catch me if you can, then I'll make good" game.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:52AM (#43732295)

    The judge was not enthused that they offered to settle for $7500 while noting that potential penalties could be as much as $150,000.

    How is this different han what DA's do with the accused?

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:57AM (#43732351)

    This is not theft, it is copyright infringement.

    In the case of theft of $10 your fines would never exceed hundreds of dollars.

  • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:02PM (#43732425)

    Not at all. The issue I have is the discrepancy in amounts. $7500 is targeted to make it just cheaper than dealing with a lawyer. The $150k is statutory damages designed to deal with commercial infringement.

    Settling out of court is fine if it is in good faith. This is not a good faith offer, it is merely a protection racket. They don't even need to have a case since it will cost you more to fight than to pay.

  • Re:Mass Extortion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:10PM (#43732519)

    The problem is that the people running the legal system are themselves attorneys with little sense of what laypeople really have to put up with. Yes, it might technically be in the fine print of something that we signed, but there's no reason to believe that we understood the terms we were agreeing to. What's more, very, very few people can afford to have an attorney go over every ToS, EULA and such that we're asked to agree to. That alone would likely run into the thousands of dollars every year, assuming that the agreements are straightforward, which they usually aren't.

    Until the justice system understands that these aren't real contracts which have been negotiated and agree to with informed consent, it's going to keep up like this. Sure, I signed a contract to get phone service, but it's not like I had other options other than not having a phone at all.

  • by PhxBlue (562201) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:18PM (#43732617) Homepage Journal
    Way to miss the point. GP is referring to DAs' sometimes ridiculous overprosecution of cases, e.g. Aaron Schwartz.
  • Change Approach (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:29PM (#43732743)

    It occurs to me that the movie industry could change its approach here. Why not work with streaming companies and send these people a letter with some choices. Pay for the movie at its real costs, purchase a streaming service, pay a fine, or prove you already have done so. If the government worked with them to make a resonable but annoying fine linked to their taxes so they have to otherwise pay it, the vast majority of people would buy the film or the service. Why not, you get out of trouble but the fine is sane so you feel you have some choice. The industry gets its money, a small amount of which goes to pay the government's costs. The government is happy as fine based systems are vastly cheaper if not profitable for them. Everybody wins.

  • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meglon (1001833) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:30PM (#43732757)
    Yeh.... they even have a saying for that....
  • Re:About time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:49PM (#43732961)

    You will need to file all kinds of paperwork for appeals and evidence.

    This is a civil case, so they are only going to try to meet a preponderance of evidence. There is no proving yourself innocent, just defending against that.

    lawyers and judges are not godlike, but just as they have no idea how to do my job, I have no idea how to do theirs. We could both attempt it, but the results are not going to be pretty in either case.

  • Re:About time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by azadrozny (576352) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @02:46PM (#43734139)
    You usually have the right to bring a lawyer with you to court. Small claims courts exist to bundle smaller less complicated cases into one system. The rules are usually simpler, and judges are more tolerant of errors made by the litigants since they typically do act as their own lawyer.
  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @02:58PM (#43734237) Journal

    Analogy? I don't see any analogy, I see only a point, and a not very relevant one at that.

    You made a point, a good point, about stealing. But this is a case about copying, not stealing. Copying is not stealing no matter how many times others try to equate the 2 actions. Don't fall for these sleazy media companies ongoing efforts to confuse the public on this. Don't talk of this matter as if it is or could be some form of theft, you just help these media trolls when you do.

    Nor should copying be considered some heinous crime. It isn't. It shouldn't even be considered a petty infraction. Speeding, one of the lightest infractions on the books, is a more serious offense as it can endanger lives. But copying? Not only should copying not be considered an offense at all, it should be encouraged because it is a huge social good. It is sharing of knowledge, the "standing on the shoulders of giants", that put humanity at the top of the animal kingdom, not sheer intelligence alone. These media trolls want to set themselves up as the gatekeepers through which all sharing must occur, and to collect heavy tolls. It's very nearly as bad as selling the "rights" to breathable air to private interests, and forcing everyone to pay for their air. You benefit from fresh air, so you should pay for it, right? Don't fall for their propaganda and allow them to further muck up our society with their attempts to control all information.

  • Re:About time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @03:20PM (#43734399)

    The one thing that gets me about small claims court here is the abuse of the default rules. The default rule in this state requires that there be attempted service by certified mail, return receipt requested, no responsive pleading, a notice that you intend to file for default has to be filed and served, you miss the first hearing, and a certain number of days have to pass. On the other side of things, if you don't file a responsive pleading, then all jurisdictional allegations are admitted and all other allegations are denied; plus, the notice states that a responsive pleading isn't required.

    Well, the hearings are scheduled so far out that it isn't common that all of the default requirements can be met before the trial. So, savvy lawyers began scheduling all their case trials for the same time and date. When most people don't show up, they get defaults against all of them. But, if someone does show up, then the judges grant them a continuance to have the real trial on a different date. So, even if a person gets all their witness and everything and shows up to trial, the court still grants their cronies, I mean "the lawyers," a continuance that is usually months away.

    To illustrate how bad it is, I've had a trial for a client scheduled for 1:30-2:30. I looked at the calendar and there was literally over 150 trials scheduled between 1:00 and 1:30 because the lawyers would show up for them after lunch because they know they will get a default or reschedule. How many of the defendants in those cases had either fretted all over lunch or was readying their case while missing out on work, only to have to do it all over again? And other attorneys can't seem to wrap their heads around why people here seem to have active disdain for the profession.

  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @06:49PM (#43736103)
    I think the current copyright system is broken, and I do NOT approve of the actions of the MPAA, RIAA, etc. in these frivolous and ridiculous legal actions. However:

    Copying is not stealing no matter how many times others try to equate the 2 actions.

    I agree that "copying is not stealing" in a strict sense, but I also don't think copying is always the noble deed you make it out to be.

    And, although you don't accept the analogy between copying and stealing, it doesn't mean there aren't some things in common.

    Here's a simple hypothetical situation:

    Suppose you hire a lawyer to draw up some important legal document for you (a will or something). You need the help of an expert to be sure the language is legally binding. Say you go over to his office, he shows you the will, and then he says, "My fee for this is $500."

    He gets up and goes to the bathroom. You go over to his computer and use your USB drive to make a copy of the electronic file of the will. You then get up and leave. Or, you wait for him to come back and say, "Well, I can't pay $500, so no thanks" and then leave. Whatever. You file the legal document.

    Is that "stealing"? You only made a copy of an electronic document. Isn't "information supposed to be free"?

    If it troubles you that you inappropriately accessed his computer, suppose he (stupidly) sends you the document via email, along with his bill. You mutter something about the fee being too high and refuse to pay and claim to "return" the electronic copy he sent. You then go ahead and use your copy of the document anyway.

    In this case, you hired someone to do something for you, and you made an implicit agreement to pay his fee if you want the product. It shouldn't matter whether the form of the product is easily copyable or not: whether you paid a carpenter to build you a new porch or a lawyer to write you a new will, you owe them money for their work.

    Is this strictly "stealing"? No. But it does violate an implicit contract, and I don't think it's too far-fetched to consider it to be akin to theft if you go behind your lawyer's back and still use your copy of the document without paying his fee. You effectively "took" his time and work without paying anything, which sounds very much like "stealing."

    Now, suppose you do the same thing, except you hire a composer to write a new song for your wedding. Again, you refuse the $500 fee, because you can't afford it or don't like the song that much or whatever... but you take the mp3 and use the song at your wedding anyway. Isn't that also akin to "theft," even if it isn't strictly stealing?

    Okay, you might say, but these are clear examples of work-for-hire, so you owe the creator something because you implicitly agreed to pay for their work by asking them to do it.

    Now, we get to a real-world copyright example. Now our songwriter decides, rather than only writing single songs for rich guys and their weddings, that he'd rather contribute his work to society at large. He could solicit some sort of "subscription" for his songs, charging prospective buyers a few dollars each. (This sort of thing did and still does happen for certain types of publications, though in the past it wasn't just for periodicals -- large books and even printed song collections were sometimes printed under subscription.)

    But a young composer without a "big name" doesn't have that option. So he writes a song and arranges for a recording. Rather than charging someone $500 for writing a single song, he figures if he can get 1000 people to pay him 50 cents each, he'll make the same amount. And the U.S. copyright system seems to back him up on this idea.

    But after two guys buy the song (giving him a total of $1 in revenue), you come along and start shouting: "Information should be FREE! Copying is a noble act! Share! Share! Share!" One of those guys uploads the song somewhere on the internet, and several hundred people g

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