Sunday, August 03, 2008

The RIAA v The 30,000

Here's an interesting article in The Judges’ Journal, Volume 47, Number 3, Summer 2008, from New York lawyer and Recording Industry vs. The People blogger, Ray Beckerman.

"As every federal judge must be painfully aware by now, an estimated
30,000 ordinary people2 have been sued during the past four years in U.S. district courts by the world’s four largest record companies, EMI, SONY BMG, Warner Brothers Records, and Vivendi/Universal, or their affiliates. The suits have been brought for alleged infringement of sound recording copyrights. Although these companies are represented by a trade association, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), none of the hundreds of other members of this association has participated in the litigation campaign.

The large majority of the defendants have defaulted, and the default judgments against them have been in amounts that represent more than 2,000 times the actual damages sustained by the plaintiffs.3 Of those remaining, most have paid settlement amounts that exceed 1,000 times the plaintiffs’ actual damages, and a great number of the settling defendants—perhaps most of them— are people who did not actually engage in file sharing, let alone copyright infringement through file sharing, and against whom no legally cognizable claim for secondary infringement could be mounted. However, they are settling because the alternative—protracted, costly federal litigation—is not possible for them...

The courts of other countries—notably the Netherlands and Canada—are not clogged with these cases for the simple reason that they were quick to recognize the paucity of the RIAA’s evidence and refused to permit the identities of Internet subscribers to be disclosed to the record companies.5 The courts of the United States have not been so discriminating and have allowed a veritable flood of one-sided litigation to crowd their dockets.

This article will at-tempt to remove some of the mythology re-garding these cases, to make observations regarding some of the points at which the process is breaking down, and at each of those junctures, to offer one or more practical, constructive suggestions as to what the courts need to do to make the process more fair and balanced."

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