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Mom, and Now Judge, Stand Up to RIAA 670

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the won't-back-down dept.
Nom du Keyboard writes "First there was the mother, Patricia Santangelo, who has refused to roll-over to RIAA demands to pay their extortion fee because they claim to have identified her IP address as involved in Kazaa file sharing. Now Judge McMahon doesn't seem to be letting the RIAA have it all their way either in this case. Godwin's Law summarizes the rebuke of Judge McMahon to the RIAA lawyer now that a court case has been filed. A transcript of the entire court appearance is also available."
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Mom, and Now Judge, Stand Up to RIAA

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  • Finally..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DotNM (737979) * <matt@mattdeaTWAINn.ca minus author> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:52PM (#13459669) Homepage
    I think it's about time that someone is standing up to the **AA's in the world!
  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:54PM (#13459684)
    Good this is getting ridiculous. Law suits should not be a legitimate business model.
    • Re:About time (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:17PM (#13459840)
      Law suits should not be a legitimate business model.

      Actually, the most interesting thing about the transcript as I read it was that the lawyer for the music industry wanted the defendant/her lawyer to mess around with some industry settlement process, but the judge basically squashed it flat:

      MR. MASCHIO:
      I'll give her my card, but our instructions are for these people to deal with the conference settlement center. They had discussions.
      THE COURT: I'm sorry. Your instructions from me, the Judge --
      MR. MASCHIO: Okay.
      THE COURT: -- are that, if she appears with a lawyer, her lawyer will deal with you.
      MR. MASCHIO: Oh, absolutely, your Honor.
      THE COURT: Otherwise, you take your action and you file it in front of an arbitrator.
      MR. MASCHIO: No, all I was suggesting, your Honor, is that, if she doesn't come with an attorney, that the more direct way of doing this -- and this is just to facilitate things -- is to deal directly with the conference center.
      THE COURT: Not once you've filed an action in my court.
      MR. MASCHIO: Okay.
      THE COURT: You file an action in my court, your conference center is out of it. They have nothing to do with anything.
      MR. MASCHIO: Okay. I'll give her my card.
      THE COURT: If you are here, you are here as an officer of the court. You're taking up my time and cluttering up my calendar, so you will do it in the context of the Court. Maybe it will be with a magistrate judge, but you will be representing your client, not some conference center. And if your people want things to be done through the conference center, tell them not to bring lawsuits.
      [Emphasis added]

      The judge earlier stamped on an attempt to get the defendant to state a position under oath before having the chance to take legal advice pretty heavily, too.

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

        by interiot (50685) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:30PM (#13459934) Homepage
        And then, at the end he says:
        Well, I think it would be a really good idea for you to get a lawyer, because I would love to see a mom fighting one of these.
        A little sexist, but she is the single parent of 5 kids, so it would make for good PR.

        By the way, how far does the judge have to go in saying that he's leaning towards a particular party before the evidence is even presented, before he starts risking invalidating the whole trial?

        • by isometrick (817436) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:53PM (#13460073)
          he says [...] A little sexist,

          Uhhh ... you do know that Judge McMahon is a woman, yes? Now put your foot into your mouth : )
        • The judge's bias (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @08:01PM (#13460115)
          By the way, how far does the judge have to go in saying that he's leaning towards a particular party before the evidence is even presented, before he starts risking invalidating the whole trial?

          Since IANAL, I can't answer that, but let's look at the transcript. The judge tells the defendant to try to find a lawyer, and allows time for this, squashing the plaintiff's attempt to get material from the defendant under oath before the legal advice is available. Then she tells the defendant she wants her to fight the case, and tells the plaintiff's lawyer that he has to present his case in court now they've started a lawsuit. Throughout, the judge is fairly clearly in favour of the defendant getting a fair day in court.

          The one thing she doesn't do is give any indication of whether she thinks the defendant should actually win the case, and to my legally untrained mind, that seems to be the only thing that would have been inappropriate. In fact, I find it rather reassuring and highly appropriate that a judge was heavily in favour of a defendant fighting against a fair case in court, and not being intimidated into doing things that aren't in their best interests without the benefit of counsel.

          • by interiot (50685)
            The judge is interested in a fair day in court?

            whether she thinks the defendant should actually win the case

            Eh?

            because I would love to see a mom fighting

            one of these.

            That's awfully close to saying that the defendant should win.

            She's also already made her mind up that there's a group of cases that all seem alike. That may not be legally problematic, but frankly divulging such information seems like it's crossing a line that most judges don't cross at the beginning of a case.

            Certainly, it's

  • A Sequel.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by kaede128 (911697) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:55PM (#13459689)
    Download Wars: Episode V - The Mom Strikes Back
  • Full Blog Text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:57PM (#13459703)
    Runaround Suits
    I've always said that the Recording Industry Association of America and its member companies are perfectly within their rights to sue those they think are infringing on music copyrights through peer-to-peer file-trading of songs. At the same time, it seems obvious that the RIAA should pick the lawsuits prudently, based on solid evidence, so that when the cases are publicized it will be clear that the defendants deserved what they got.
    That doesn't seem to be what's happening, however. Instead, the RIAA notifies potential defendants that they are subject to a lawsuit that may result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of liability, and then gives them the option of settling the claim for only a few thousand dollars. It ought to be needless to say this, but sometimes an innocent defendant might still opt to take the settlement, because the risk of going to court and losing is so great.
    Occasionally, however, you find a defendant who is troubled enough that he or she is willing to stand up to RIAA regardless of the risk. That seems to be the case with Patricia Santangelo. I urge you to read the transcript of Ms. Santangelo's court appearance here. It is fun to read, and it has made me an instant admirer of Judge McMahon, who refused to be a mere conduit steering Ms. Santangelo to the RIAA's "conference center" (which should properly be called a "surrender center"):
    MR. MASCHIO: No, all I was suggesting, your Honor, is that, if she doesn't come with an attorney, that the more direct way of doing this -- and this is just to facilitate things -- is to deal directly with the conference center.
    THE COURT: Not once you've filed an action in my court.
    MR. MASCHIO: Okay.
    THE COURT: You file an action in my court, your conference center is out of it. They have nothing to do with anything.
    MR. MASCHIO: Okay. I'll give her my card.
    THE COURT: If you are here, you are here as an officer of the court. You're taking up my time and cluttering up my calendar, so you will do it in the context of the Court. Maybe it will be with a magistrate judge, but you will be representing your client, not some conference center. And if your people want things to be done through the conference center, tell them not to bring lawsuits.
  • by convex_mirror (905839) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:57PM (#13459706)
    When you can download the audio off bittorrent?
  • by The Outbreak Monkey (581200) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:58PM (#13459711)
    McMahon, Colleen
    Born 1951 in Columbus, OH
    Federal Judicial Service:
    U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
    Nominated by William J. Clinton on May 21, 1998, to a seat vacated by John F. Keenan;

    From http://air.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=2799 [fjc.gov]

    Way to go Clinton ;)

    *quickly ducks*
  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:01PM (#13459732) Homepage
    The RIAA might lose one to a determined defendant who attacks what at this point must be a kind of system the entertainment corps set up to sue individuals.

    Good for her and everything, but "the tide" is not shifting to the RIAA's disadvantage.
  • by guaigean (867316) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:02PM (#13459734)
    I think it's important to point out from the transcript that the mother blames Kazaa for this happening.

    MS. SANTANGELO: Okay.I think my biggest issue is, honestly, not with the record company as much as it is with this company called Kazaa that allowed them to do this in the first place. I really can't believe it. And I just, obviously, in the last week, started studying about it, you know. I've never really looked into it before, but --
    THE COURT: Yes, that, I can well understand.
    MS. SANTANGELO: -- that it could even be allowed to do in the first place. It's just mind-boggling.
    • by Seumas (6865) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:16PM (#13459836)
      Do you now understand why DRM will succeed and why customers will *like* it?

      Because, it will be presented like this:

      "DRM will help secure you and your computer so that nobody will be able to pirate movies or music through your computer and you won't have to worry about being sued for $100k".
  • by scribblej (195445) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:08PM (#13459777)

    19 And that's most likely why I was never notified by AOL
    20 or any of my -- the companies that I have online service with
    21 that my children had downloaded anything.


    Yeah.... that'll happen.
  • by One Louder (595430) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:08PM (#13459779)
    The RIAA is really going to have to work for this one - this judge is clearly not going to allow anything remotely questionable on the part of the plaintiff. If they have anything less than photographic evidence, a signed confession, and a time machine so the jury can witness the act first-hand, they're screwed.

    They need to drop this one as soon as possible - there's no way they're going to "win" - they either lose the case or financially wipe out a single Mom of five kids for something about which she may not have had first-hand knowledge.

    • Sorry to respond to my own post, but here's a followup article [mtv.com].
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:09PM (#13459783) Journal
    How can the RIAA force people to pay money just because the RIAA believes a person from an IP address shared music?

    It seems like a hard thing to prove in court. Isn't the threshold "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a crime, and "preponderance of the evidence" for civil cases?

    Maybe it is time to chance the threshold for guilt from preponderance to "highly likely".

    What happens if someone has a wireless router in their apartment and the neighbor downloads music using it?

    What happens if a community college with a wireless lan network has students download music?

    What if a parent has their childrens friends over, and the kids download music?

    There are thousands of ways music can be shared, where the person who owns the IP address will have no knowldge of the downloading.

    And what if someone masks their IP address on the P2P networks? How hard is it to use a proxy? How hard is it to find a hack? The RIAA might see my IP address, but how can they prove it came from my IP?

    Does the defendant have to prove innocence here?

    Is the IP address infallible?

    • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @08:08PM (#13460161) Homepage
      No. Not in the least.

      I was going to college in Long Island. I got a letter from the RIAA claiming that I'd been sharing episodes of Sex in the City. I've got no interest in that series - I wasn't sharing those at all. They listed an IP address they claimed was mine, but I have a dynamic DNS service that logs what IP I have, and I'd never had that IP.

      My landlady opened my mail because it was marked "urgent" (I was out of town for a few days to go to a programming competition), saw the legal complaint, kicked me out of the house one month before finals, and refused to give me my deposit back. This was one of the major factors that led to me dropping out of college for the second time.

      (Admittedly I dropped out of college and went straight into a programming job at Google, so I'm not about to claim "this ruined my life" - if anything, it was a net win for me. But still.)

      I'm not claiming that the RIAA is responsible for my landlady's actions, but they did send me offical legal papers that were not based in any way in fact. I wouldn't believe any of their lawsuits without some real concrete evidence.
  • Salient Quotes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mpapet (761907) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:38PM (#13459984) Homepage
    This is great arguing by the entertainment corps.

    Defendant uses the Kazaa search engine, which furnishings the software, which allows the defendant to upload other users' files.
    Do you see how they put her in the wrong immediately by spinning the definition of Kazza? Now I'm not saying Kazaa is solving world hunger, but this is expert stuff.

    The captured materials in Exhibit B shows that the defendant had uploaded at least 1,641 files.
    This is like asking a witness, "When did you stop beating your wife?"

    From there, the RIAA's has a tough road ahead because the judge identifies almost immediately with the defendant and assists her in a few different ways.

    MR. MASCHIO: Can I be heard for a moment, your Honor?
    THE COURT: You can be heard all you want.

    OUCH!!!

    Here's where it gets really ugly for the lawyer.
    MR. MASCHIO: That's okay. We would just like -- we think it's appropriate for her to say, yes, I did this or, no, I did not do this under oath. The other thing is that --
    THE COURT: First of all, you didn't file a verified complaint, and she doesn't have to file a verified answer. So she doesn't have to do anything under oath.
    MR. MASCHIO: Well, okay.

    At this point the lawyer is a spineless mass on the court's floor with grey matter seeping out of his ears. RIAA didn't file properly and have a lawyer in there that thinks this will go over his way just because he's the RIAA. Love it or hate it, courts have these procedures and you pay dearly if they aren't followed.

    Here's the quotes around questioning the whole IP address/ account name as incontrovertable evidence.
    MR. MASCHIO: They wouldn't have brought the action, your Honor, if they hadn't verified that very carefully.
    THE COURT: Well, we'll see, won't we? We'll see. And if what she's telling me is wrong, I won't be very happy with her.

    Now, if she is lying, she's in BIG trouble. Let's hope she's truthful and the entertainment corps can't prove a lie.

    This next part is hilarious and starts by the judge telling the lawyer to give his business card to the defendant.
    I'll give her my card, but our instructions are for these people to deal with the conference settlement center. They had discussions.
    THE COURT: I'm sorry. Your instructions from me, the Judge --
    MR. MASCHIO: Okay.
    THE COURT: -- are that, if she appears with a lawyer, her lawyer will deal with you.
    MR. MASCHIO: Oh, absolutely, your Honor.
    THE COURT: Otherwise, you take your action and you file it in front of an arbitrator.
    MR. MASCHIO: No, all I was suggesting, your Honor, is that, if she doesn't come with an attorney, that the more direct way of doing this -- and this is just to facilitate things -- is to deal directly with the conference center.
    THE COURT: Not once you've filed an action in my court.
    MR. MASCHIO: Okay.
    THE COURT: You file an action in my court, your conference center is out of it. They have nothing to do with anything.
    MR. MASCHIO: Okay. I'll give her my card.
    THE COURT: If you are here, you are here as an officer of the court. You're taking up my time and cluttering up my calendar, so you will do it in the context of the Court. Maybe it will be with a magistrate judge, but you will be representing your client, not some conference center. And if your people want things to be done through the conference center, tell them not to bring lawsuits.

    That lawyer was SO unprepared it is hard to believe. I really should have gone to law school because I know I can run rings around jokers like this.

    Now, let's hope she's smart enough to get someone willing to invest the time and effort to make her case a test case. Either that or counter sue.
    • Re:Salient Quotes (Score:3, Informative)

      by iluvcapra (782887)

      IANAL, but, from dictionary.law.com [law.com]:

      verification (as is a verified complaint)- n. the declaration under oath or upon penalty of perjury that a statement or pleading is true, located at the end of a document. A typical verification reads: "I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California, that I have read the above complaint and I know it is true of my own knowledge, except as to those things stated upon information and belief, and as to those I believe it to be true. Executed J

  • by teslatug (543527) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:41PM (#13460005)
    From the transcript:
    MR. MASCHIO: ...The defendant was served on April 25th, and her time to expire does not--

    THE COURT: Her time to answer.
    MR. MASCHIO: -- time to answer does not expire until May 15th.
    Now they want people to "expire" just for copyright infringement?? :)
  • by UndyingShadow (867720) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:45PM (#13460028)
    Say you download 4000 songs, get sued by the RIAA, settle out of court for 2000 dollars. 50 cents a song, half of what you'd pay on itunes.
  • by Efialtis (777851) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @08:01PM (#13460120) Homepage
    So, lets say I go out and buy a DVD movie...
    And I go out and buy a CD of music...

    Then I go out and download every scene on that DVD from KAZAA or (insert your favorite file sharing thing here)...
    Or I download every song off the CD from (share system)

    Have I broken the law?
    How do they know that I didn't buy it, how do they know that I don't have rights to make copies or download copies of something I have purchased...???

    Hmmmm...methinks that something is smelling, and it wasn't beans and cabbage...
  • Quote of the week (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elronxenu (117773) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @08:13PM (#13460184) Homepage
    This is good ...

    From [stereophile.com]http://www.stereophile.com/news/082205riaa/ [stereophile.com] ...

    In the war against copyright infringement, organizations like the RIAA and MPAA have taken to characterizing the major culprit as organized crime, pointing to parallels with the traffic in illegal narcotics. "The markup for a kilo of heroin is 200%," claimed Warner Music spokesman Craig Hoffman. "The markup for pirated CDs and DVDs is 800%."

    I wonder what the markup is on commercially produced CDs and DVDs ... 8000% ??

    Such ... irony ... the recording industry complaining about the high price of pirated content ... cannot ... suppress ... gales of laughter ...

  • by St. Vitus (26355) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:31PM (#13460681)
    From the transcript (emphasis mine):


    [RIAA]: ... The defendant was served on April 25th, and her time to expire does not --
    [Judge]: Her time to answer.
    [RIAA]: -- time to answer does not expire until May 15th.


    Ahh...so just suing people isn't good enough...now we see what they really want!!

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:44PM (#13460742) Homepage
    "Godwin's Law summarizes the rebuke of Judge McMahon to the RIAA lawyer"

    After reading this I expected to read that Judge McMahon had called the RIAA lawyer a Nazi.

  • by vga_init (589198) on Friday September 02, 2005 @12:15AM (#13461649) Journal
    I didn't get to read the summary because of the slashdot effect, but I did read the entire transcript of the appearance.

    It's a good thing that the judge was sympathetic towards the defendent, because the RIAA representative was being very forceful about trying to put her at a disadvantage. The lady was basically defenseless, and the plaintiff was attempting to guide the case in a direction that isn't necessarily legal (but not illegal, if you catch my drift). Without the judge to back her up, the RIAA would have made her tie her own rope, and not before suggesting that she still might settle with them outside of court. This sort of pressure was obviously designed to scare her into settling with the RIAA and paying them money she does not legally owe. I feel some kind of bully mentality here (intimidate the victim into not making an appeal to authority), and it's kind of scary to see a very polite man in a suit radiate such a sinister aura. Maybe I'm just afraid of lawyers. ;-)

    It's quite questionable in my eyes whether or not she can be held responsible (and I speak merely from common sense, not legal precedence), and it seems to me that the RIAA's open-and-shut tactics, not to mention the eagerness to settle, suggest that they feel some anxiety about how strong their case is and whether or not they could win it. Call me blind, but I think this is a battle the RIAA would rather not fight, and that's precisely why the judge is eager to make it happen (you'll notice that he gives the defendent quite a shove in the right direction).

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