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$1.9 Million Award In Thomas Case Raises Constitutional Questions 439

Techdirt points out that the EFF is examining the constitutionality of the recent $1.9 million verdict awarded in favor of the RIAA against Jammie Thomas. While on the surface it may seem that this excessive award should be easy to overturn since grossly excessive punitive damage awards are considered to violate the Due Process clause of the US Constitution, the Supreme Court seems to have been ignoring precedent and upholding copyright's importance at any cost. "Given the size of the statutory damages award, Ms. Thomas-Rasset's legal team will likely be seriously considering a constitutional challenge to the verdict. A large and disproportionate damage award like this raises at least two potential constitutional concerns. First, the Supreme Court has made it clear that 'grossly excessive' punitive damage awards (e.g., $2 million award against BMW for selling a repainted BMW as 'new') violate the Due Process clause of the US Constitution. In evaluating whether an award 'grossly excessive,' courts evaluate three criteria: 1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's actions, 2) the disparity between the harm to the plaintiff and the punitive award, and 3) the similarity or difference between the punitive award and civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable situations. Does a $1.92 million award for sharing 24 songs cross the line into 'grossly excessive?' And do these Due Process limitations apply differently to statutory damages than to punitive damages? These are questions that the court will have to decide if the issue is raised by Ms. Thomas-Rasset's attorneys."
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$1.9 Million Award In Thomas Case Raises Constitutional Questions

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  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:50PM (#28393463) Journal

    Depressing as hell, but the system is bought, paid for, and bent beyond repair.

    • Maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe one of these times it will become undeniably obvious (to people not on slashdot) that all of the above is true. I don't think the victory will be in this case. I hope the victory will be in the system no longer being able to pretend it is "for the people, by the people".
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:07PM (#28393729)

        I wonder myself whether the defense DELIBERATELY anticipated a huge defeat in not refuting evidence or calling expert witnesses,
        all in an attempt to "shoot the moon" and get unreasonably high damages awarded which would, as it happened, stir controversy and
        undermine the RIAA in future venues up the court chain. Thomas was certainly painted as a victim in media coverage, (rightly so, yes)
        and the idea that ANY song is worth 80,000$ for being stolen in ANY form is pretty ludicrous and now widely acknowledged as such.

        • by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:17PM (#28393913)
          Seems like a pretty huge gamble to not only saddle your client with a huge unpayable debt but also set precedence for future cases just on the hope that it would stir public opinion enough to overcome the powerful RIAA lobby and get favorable legislative action on the issue, meanwhile hoping you can somehow get the ruling reversed on appeal (maybe due to ineffective counsel?) If my lawyer tried a tactic like that, they would be fired well before the trial.
          • by click2005 ( 921437 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:28PM (#28394091)

            From the sounds of it, the client was unable to pay their initial settlement offer of a few thousand.
            If thats the case then is there much different between being bankrupt and unable to pay say $50,000 or $5,000,000?

          • Seems like a pretty huge gamble to not only saddle your client with a huge unpayable debt but also set precedence for future cases just on the hope that it would stir public opinion enough to overcome the powerful RIAA lobby and get favorable legislative action on the issue, meanwhile hoping you can somehow get the ruling reversed on appeal (maybe due to ineffective counsel?) If my lawyer tried a tactic like that, they would be fired well before the trial.

            You'd have to assume that if it was done, it was done with Thomas's knowledge and consent... perhaps even her idea.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Paracelcus ( 151056 )

            In the face of economic terrorism and a complete lack of juristic integrity I suggest a repayment schedule of $1.00 per month until the death of the defendant.

            If I were compelled to pay (and had anything to take) I would destroy all cash, property, etc to deny the mafiosi their big score.

            Better to destroy everything of value than yield to terroristic demands.

        • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <shentino@gmail.com> on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:21PM (#28393969)
          I'd say the defense should get shit for legal malpractice.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by poetmatt ( 793785 )

          Uh, there's a problem with appeals and excessive amounts. In same cases (although not in civil courts I think, IANAL/correct me at will), you have to post a portion of the money to appeal directly. However in this case due to constitutionality might not be the case.

          I'm wondering how good the replacement lawyer was and if that has a factor as well.

          Basically the whole case is wide open to appeals though, all around.

        • The echo chamber (Score:3, Interesting)

          by westlake ( 615356 )

          Thomas was certainly painted as a victim in media coverage

          That is how is she was painted here.

          But that isn't how the jury saw her - not the first time around and not the second.

          There is a world beyond the blog.

          It has its own rules and its own values - and in that world the geek doesn't fare so well.

          I wonder myself whether the defense DELIBERATELY anticipated a huge defeat in not refuting evidence or calling expert witnesses

          That would be just plain stupid.

          The trial court or the appellate court is free to

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I hope the victory will be in the system no longer being able to pretend it is "for the people, by the people".

        And then what? Just because people don't read /. doesn't mean they're stupid. They know what's going on as well as we do. Maybe they know it because their pension plans are gone or their kids are dead in a dummy war the US is fighting to keep the economy afloat. This broken system is the best we've got. No reform and no revolution could change that. What would you revolt into that would be incorruptible? People are incapable of governing themselves. Someday we'll design better people or machines who will be

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If worse comes to worse, she can declare chapter 13 personal bankruptcy, make a "best effort" attempt to repay the verdict over the next three years (the bankruptcy court will set a reasonable monthly payment based on her income and expenses), and she's relieved of the debt. She can keep her home, her car, her personal possessions. It will be a pain in the ass, but she doesn't have to wind up on the street or have jackbooted thugs come into her house and confiscate everything she owns.
      • What if she doesn't have a home? What if she spent the last 15 yrs saving up funds for a down payment and was looking to buy a home in the near future.

        Now her dreams ruined.

        A $1 million fine for a $10 album is unconstitutional. Frankly, I think it's time we tore down RIAA's offices brick by brick.

        (RIAA has stolen more music than all downloader's combined.)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:02PM (#28393653)

      Depressing as hell, but the system is bought, paid for, and bent beyond repair.

      Absolutely it is. When you have ex-RIAA lawyers getting assigned to high Department of Justice positions by this administration, what chance does Jammie Thomas think she has? They can appeal it all the way to the supreme court, and it's still going to get shot down; like you said, the whole system is bought and paid for.

      The saddest part about it is that it's not just the judicial system. Our Congressmen have literally been bought and paid for by big business lobbyists for years now. Depressing indeed.

    • 12 guys pissing all over the 8th amendment does make them a "Jury of Peers"
  • by C_Kode ( 102755 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:52PM (#28393489) Journal

    I think they should subpoena the jury and ask them exactly how they came up with $2M in damages. As I noted before. This sounds extremely fishy that they would award that type of money to the RIAA. I suspect there was jury tampering involved.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What is fishy about it? She has been clearly guilty of this crime since the beginning and she's only been assigned about half of the maximum statutory limit. I don't see why this leads to any notion that there was jury tampering. All it leads me to believe is that these statutory limits need to be seriously looked at and made to fit more correctly the crime.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:30PM (#28394143) Homepage

        This verdict is a simple reflection of the fact that the jury has no
        sense of perspective on this matter. They probably just pulled a number
        out of their collective posteriors. You probably had some crying for
        blood advocating the full amount and others advocating the minimum
        amount. The foreman probably split down the middle and probably didn't
        even bother to AVERAGE the proposed amounts.

        Can you relate to 2 million dollars? Do you think the average jurist can?

        Do you think the average American can?

        So, Minnesotans think that running a P2P app with some music on it rates 50% the maximum penalty.

        It makes you wonder what they think merits the minimum or the maximum.

        Mebbe the 200x range of damages spelled out in the law just demonstrates how bogus it is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The Moof ( 859402 )
      I believe I read somewhere that they claimed it was a "per-upload" infraction. So it's something like she uploaded 24 songs something like 27,000 at $70 per violation.
  • But this definitely should be examined. These asinine penalties for a non-commercial copyright infringement is just insane. Hell, even for commercial copyright infringement... $1.9 million for someone selling essentially two copied CD's? Does that sound right to anyone other than someone who works for the RIAA directly or indirectly?
    • by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:06PM (#28393709)
      The question is not whether or not she downloaded the songs, it should be whether or not she did it with the intent of providing the same to others. I could support damages equal to the market value (plus reasonable punitive damages) of what she obtained iff (sic) she didn't upload anything but to suggest that this woman is even in the same league as someone who sells thousands of copied CDs is just silly. A common belief here is that the jury came down hard on her because she lied in court, but isn't perjury a criminal matter and shouldn't it have no bearing on the damages levied against her for a few dozen MP3s?
  • ...if her lawyers planned or even steered this way since it may be a more fruitful avenue to pursue in the end. Either way it's absolutely absurd and obscene. It's pretty obvious this whole house of cards the recording industry has made will fall, the question is just which attack will make it finally crumble?

  • It is not over (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:57PM (#28393575)
    The RIAA has been making very telling statements after the verdict. They realize that with a judgment like this public reaction is more than just turning on them. The fact that it is also hurting their brands (Sony, EMI, Universal, Warner Bros) is also worrying them. Eventually they will cave or lose.
  • Duh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mdf356 ( 774923 ) <mdf356@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:57PM (#28393577) Homepage

    When it's large damages against a company [yahoo.com] the Supremes know it's not good. But statutory damages to an individual that lines the pockets of business, that's great! (For 5 of 9 anyways). Summary: businesses good, people bad.

    • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by theodicey ( 662941 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:03PM (#28393679)

      Yup. The Roberts court's infinite pity for poor beleaguered corporations such as Exxon and BMW will be replaced by complete concern for the victims of crimes committed by individuals.

      Objectively, one would think that corporations would need more and clearer punishment, not leniency. The only thing preventing corporations from behaving amorally is the risk of financial punishment -- CEOs have almost no personal liability. Individual citizens risk criminal punishment, and have to answer to society's moral standards.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I would say that the court should honor precedent and set the initial judgement exactly as it did the much cited McDonald's case. That is two days of her profits from the pirated music, then reduce that by 80%, then settle for what was much likely a lower amount.

      Punitive damages are meant to from doing things again. In this case I will increase my efforts to by local music, or independent, and minimize my interaction with such a dangerous organization as RIAA.

  • The exxon valdez jury awarded 5 billion dollars in punitive damages. That oil spill has left a ring around that bay that is clearly visible to this day. The courts reduced this by a factor of 10. Because it would be unfair to make one of the worlds richest and most profitable companies pay for their own f--kups that continue to afflict Alaska. Will this kid get a reduction? No. Becouse the court is a conservative court of 7 justices apointed by republican presidents. What does it mean that the court is cons
    • Why are you knocking the court and judges? Their job is to apply the law no matter how stupid the law is. Courts are supposed to apply the law, not make it. It's Congress that needs to fix these messed up laws. But unfortunately we have elected a Congress that can be bought by Disney.

      • Apply the law? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheLink ( 130905 )
        Judges can interpret and apply the laws in many ways. There are so many laws - they can pick the laws they want to apply.

        Same goes for the prosecution in criminal cases.

        AFAIK nobody has ever been sentenced to life imprisonment for adultery in Michigan. Even though that is how the law is written. Go check it out :).

        If 1.9 million for copying a song is not cruel and unusual punishment, then maybe life imprisonment for adultery is fine too.

        Some may say adultery is not a serious offense, but a lot of spouses ma
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      The definition of "conservative" has really changed a lot since I was young.

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:01PM (#28393639) Homepage

    The RIAA always talks about how they are just protecting the interests of the artists. It stands to reason that this is a reflexive property.

    If that is valid (and I certainly believe the first part of the supposition above is highly questionable), then here are the people you should hold accountable for this travesty of justice; the artists on her list:

    • Guns N Roses ("Welcome to the Jungle"; "November Rain")
    • Janet Jackson ("Let's What Awhile")
    • Goo Goo Dolls ("Iris")
    • Vanessa Williams ("Save the Best for Last")
    • Aerosmith ("Cryin")
    • Gloria Estefan ("Here We Are"; "Coming Out of the Heart"; "Rhythm is Gonna Get You")
    • Green Day ("Basket Case")
    • Journey ("Faithfully"; "Don't Stop Believing")
    • Destiny Child ("Bills, Bills, Bills")
    • Sara McLachlan ("Possession"; "Building a Mystery")
    • Richard Marx ("Now and Forever")
    • Linkin Park ("One Step Closer")
    • Sheryl Crow ("Run Baby Run")
    • Def Leppard ("Pour Some Sugar on Me")
    • No Doubt ("Bathwater"; "Hella Good"; "Different People")
    • Reba McEntire ("One Honest Heart")
    • Bryan Adams ("Somebody")

    I have a Green Day album and a couple Aerosmith albums. I figure to send it back with a suitably sardonic letter referencing the fact that I no longer want their music, and if they are in such financial hardship, they can re-sell it to help them put food on the table.

    • Sickest thing is that its all this for a handful of mediocre songs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is why I never bought CDs in the first place. The RIAA is not concerned with the welfare of its "Clients" it is only concerned with the lining of its own pockets. They care little for who they destroy in the name of "Justice" when their justice is just bullying those who cannot defend themselves. Its like putting someone to death for parking in a handycap space.

      Seriously. This woman, and by extension her children, will never again live a normal life. The purpose of the justice system is to impress

    • by geekyMD ( 812672 )

      Exactly so! Green Day claims to be so socially progressive but here they are waiting to collect $80,000 for one song from a mother of four. What a bunch of hypocrites. Unless someone challenges them on this nothing is going to happen. Does anyone know of a way to directly impact these bands?

      I suggest flooding their myspace pages with questions about why they are supporting this decision as well as the broader RIAA actions (who they have actively supported). (If they aren't vocally against it, they they

      • Does anyone know of a way to directly impact these bands?

        Stop buying music. As simple as that. If the artists don't bother being vocal about opposing tyrannical organizations such as the RIAA, then they tacitly approve of their actions. If the occasional band/artist does voice their objection to the RIAA, then by all means support them. But if they don't then we just have to consider them part of the RIAA gang.

    • As you can get all these songs for 99Â on itunes $1.9m seems a little much. The other problem I have is that the prosecution only proved that they were able to download from the defendant. I don't agree that people should be able to take what they want, but I hate the RIAA because they've made a business model out of mocking our legal system and profiting from it.
    • They should have subpoenaed the bands to testify since it was their music that was being infringed. It would have been very interesting to hear each band's statements about where they stand on having the music copied on the Internet. Say the wrong thing and they'll destroy their fan base.

      Since this is supposed to be about compensating the artists, it would be interesting to have the bands testify on what percentage of these settlements they receive. How can it make sense to award $2M when the artists proba

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      I have a Green Day album and a couple Aerosmith albums. I figure to send it back with a suitably sardonic letter referencing the fact that I no longer want their music, and if they are in such financial hardship, they can re-sell it to help them put food on the table.

      Don't forget to rip it to MP3 first.

  • The RIAA purpose is to protect the artists.

    For some strange reason it is run by the record companies which are the biggest offenders for ripping off the artists. I have not seen one case of the RIAA trying to protect the artists from the record companies. There is also ample proof of them ripping off the consumers, suing on behalf of someone who released their songs for free download, blatant lies and slander. Oddly enough most of the proof of the lies and slander you can find by reading the press release
    • The RIAA purpose is to protect the artists.

      Nope. That's what they say, but I doubt it's ever been true. That "I" in there stands for "industry". In this case, the acronym is completely accurate. The association serves the industry, not the artists.

  • Amendment 8:

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    Courts have held that damages awarded in civil suits are not "fines". Was this case a criminal or civil process?


  • Just as somebody who really did not have any interest in this, and am quite willing to pay for music.

    This is complete nonsense and will not even serve the RIAA's interests. This penalty is so far out of line that it is completely fantasy, the risk of being sued for millions of dollars is so abstract and impossible to prepare for that the logical thing to do is ignore it. Also even copying ONE song has in effect bankrupted you, so there is no financial incentive not to copy more.

    If they really wanted to make

    • Downloading is not a violation of copyright. Making copyrighted material available for others to download is unauthorized distribution, and thus is a violation of copyright. If you confuse the two and think you have no right to download, then the RIAA has succeeded.
  • Didn't the supreme's just set a precedent for excessive damage awards when they whacked the exxon valdez award a couples years back? Why not use that ratio as precedent for all such future damage awards?
  • Thomas-Aide? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arizwebfoot ( 1228544 ) * on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:09PM (#28393779)

    Perhaps all those artists could do a benefit concert for Ms. Thomas and raise enough money to pay off the RIAA.

  • I'm perplexed by the statement about the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's jurisprudence in the area of knocking down excessive "punitive awards" is well established, and would most assuredly lead to the RIAA's statutory damages theory being crushed. See amicus curiae brief [blogspot.com], which summarizes and discusses the applicable authorities.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:22PM (#28393983) Homepage

    What happened to infringement needing to have some sort of commercial or otherwise monetary gain? P2P sharing is (generally) not for monetary gain. Regardless of whether it's right or wrong to do so, the intent of large damages is to discourage commercial copyright infringement, not to pick on the little people.

  • What a sad joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:23PM (#28394003)

    What a sad joke the judicial system is.

    Is that supposed to be "justice"? I think by anyone's definition that is just plain stupid.

    Not to mention pointless. The fine might as well be for a Gajillion dollars, 'cause she ain't got that either.

  • Paint her legal team and sell them as new.

  • by GrifterCC ( 673360 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:29PM (#28394107)
    I am a lawyer.

    The EFF is going to run out of rope really fast. BMW v. Gore said it was about factors, but it was really about notice. Could BMW really expect such a dramatically large punitive-damages award? Maybe not, for the conduct alleged. Here, legally speaking, Jammie had notice: there was a statute putting her on notice of the fact that a jury could award these damages if it wanted.

    Anyway, with the Court's current composition, arguing that BMW v. Gore should be expanded to statutory damages is a non-starter. That opinion barely made it through as it was. Just look at the dissents--Ginsberg, joined by Rehnquist? The Court's only gotten more government-friendly since then.

    I don't know much adjudicatory criminal procedure; maybe the 8th Amendment is the way to go.
  • Cruel and Unusual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:30PM (#28394141)
    Don't you USians have that little clause that prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment"? 1.9M for an average person is their whole life earnings. She could have stole a CD from a store with 24 songs on it and got a slap on the wrist. What makes it so different that it is done on a computer? This cruel punishment should also apply to the people down there who take a pee in the bushes on their way home from the bar and are branded "sex-offenders" for the rest of their life. The US is hysterical and real people are being burnt as witches.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sgt scrub ( 869860 )

      people are being burnt as witches

      Funny you should say that. The last time people were being burned as witches, religious extremists were running the government. What a coincidence.

  • by sherpajohn ( 113531 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:31PM (#28394147) Homepage

    Trillions in bailouts to banks that wasted the untold fortunes of the average person's retirement funds in vain attempts they knew should have failed to make the rich beyond need bankers even more fucking rich, and the courts have a audacity to award the perveyors of packaged pop poop almost $100k per song shared? You people are totally fucked in the head. If it gets like this in Canada I am leaving - but where can I go that's not that inasane? Jeebus jumpin jehosiphat!

  • My question is, "Was this case set up for an appeal?" It seems interesting that the defense made a very simple case at trial,did not oppose bad evidence with vigor and then didn't strenuously go after the jury instructions, which seemed to be missing quite a bit of important details. Almost was like the battle was forfeit to win the war at a later date.

    Would be interesting to get a few attorneys to comment...

  • 1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's actions

    Reprehensibility? That's sure to be objectively defined and fairly applied. Is it illegal to be reprehensible now?

    2) the disparity between the harm to the plaintiff and the punitive award

    Seems to me that this difference should always be $0.

    3) the similarity or difference between the punitive award and civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable situations.

    We have these things separated out for a reason.

  • by kybred ( 795293 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:41PM (#28394327)
    Counterpoint this $1.9 million judgement to this [dallasnews.com]:

    Jabari, a 300-pound gorilla, escaped from his enclosure and went on an angry rampage through the zoo. Police shot and killed him on the zoo grounds, but not before he seriously injured Reichert, Heard and 3-year-old Rivers Heard.

    The Dallas City Council, which oversees the zoo, is scheduled to approve a $500,000 financial settlement with Heard and Reichert during a special meeting Friday at City Hall. The money is meant to compensate the women and their children for their physical injuries and emotional trauma.

    State law caps civil damage awards against a city government at $500,000.

    So the RIAA gets nearly $2 Million, while these people with real physical and emotional injuries get 25% of that.

  • 1. once upon a time, there was a set of gentleman's agreements agreed upon between large publishers of vinyl and plastic cassettes

    2. poof: teh intarwebs appears

    3. new ability: every pock marked teenager in the world now has greater distribution powers than bertlesmann + time warner + every publisher that has ever existed: "hey my friend in novosibirsk, this is cape town: you want the entire creative output of that new zealand lounger singer bic runga? here ya go"

    4. response of publishers to new ability: apply to every single pock marked teenager the set of rules agreed upon between rich executives in oak paneled golf clubs over mint juleps

  • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) <saintium@yahooUMLAUT.com minus punct> on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:23PM (#28395097)

    The case is not a criminal case. The award is not a punishment. The case does not a class action suit with hundreds of injured participants. The award is recovery. The highest price of the 24 items on sites offering them for download should be considered as the "loss". Court and legal costs should be added. The total should then be the amount of the reward.

    I find it interesting how folks in the government complain how class action lawsuits have unjust awards that are destroying corporations but seem fine with individuals getting raped by a corporation.

  • Another Strategy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr_Ish ( 639005 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:28PM (#28396065) Homepage
    I don't have any dealings with RIAA type issues, as I am not a musician. However, I deal with publishers, who are fundamentally similar to record companies. I produce copyrighted work that I have to 'assign' the copyright to the publishers, in order to get my stuff into print (and this is only after going through the blind refereeing process). Moreover, I seldom get paid for my work. As a result, most professors like me hate publishers, but see them as a necessary evil.

    That being said, I also have plenty of friends who are successful musicians -- real record contracts and a smattering of Grammies. Funnily enough, their attitude to their record companies is about the same as mine to publishers -- they stink, but are a necessary evil.

    This parallel though suggest that their may be an alternative strategy available in the current context. Musicians and professors only deal with record companies/publishers, because there is no alternative. The question is why not? The answer is simple, these corporations are really diverse monopolies. "Ah ha!", someone will claim, "this is not so, as there are multiple record companies/publishers, thus there is 'choice', so it is not really a monopoly." However, when the record companies/publishers start to work together (e.g. in the RIAA), then they ARE working like a monopoly. Not only that, their business model is predicated on a form of extortion -- 'Give us the copyright, or your record does not get released/your paper does not get published'. Couldn't the RIAA and their like be put out of business on these kinds of grounds? Isn't this just the kind of thing that even the most foaming and rabid right winger would support? More to the point, why isn't somebody actually doing this?

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell