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RIAA Has to Disclose Attorneys Fees In Foster Case 193

Posted by Zonk
from the it-feels-good-to-come-clean dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA has been ordered to turn over its attorneys' billing records by March 26, 2007, in Capitol v. Foster in Oklahoma. The 4- page decision and order, issued in connection with the determination of the reasonableness of Ms. Foster's attorneys fees, requires the RIAA to produce the attorneys' time sheets, billing statements, billing records, and costs and expense records. The Court reviewed authorities holding that an opponent's attorneys fees are a relevant factor in determining the reasonableness of attorneys fees, quoting a United States Supreme Court case which held that 'a party cannot litigate tenaciously and then be heard to complain about the time necessarily spent by his opponent in response' (footnote 11 to City of Riverside v. Rivera)."
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RIAA Has to Disclose Attorneys Fees In Foster Case

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  • So? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stratjakt (596332)
    Why should I care about some minor maneuver in the legal end-game of a case that's been already decided?
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RingDev (879105) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:08PM (#18368585) Homepage Journal
      This is another win for little guys trying to defend themselves. Foster wanted the RIAA to pay her legal fees, they bulked trying to claim that her lawyer inflated his fees. The Judge basically called them to the mat and said that if they are spending [large sums of money] persecuting Foster, then she is entitled to have her expensive lawyer's fees paid. Inversely, if the RIAA was paying a first year law grad to handle the case all on their own, and Foster had hired a $2500/hr dream team, the Judge would likely come down in the opposite way.

      -Rick
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stratjakt (596332)
        This isn't a win, this isn't an anything. Wait until we see what the judge actually awards.

        He may decide "aww gee you guys sure spent a lot fighting this, you must have had a strong good faith belief in your claims, therefore Ms Foster isn't entitled to that much".

        He may decide "you guys are assholes and I dont like you wasting my time, so bend over, here comes da gavel".

        This news by itself means nothing. It's like a sports announcer announcing "and Manning throws the ball... " and then going to commercia
        • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @06:09PM (#18369195)
          The throw is meaningless, we need to know if it's caught, fumbled, intercepted, or what.

          Even your analogy misses the point. You can't fumble the throw. The next step can be one of only a few things, an incomplete pass (and we even know where the next play will be from if that happens), a completed pass (with the run or fumble or whatever after), or an interception. It can't be a running play. It can't be a fumble (except after the pass is complete, which is some future step not covered here).

          This case has decided that there will be lawyer fees decided for the defendant. The plaintiff claimed the lawyers fees are too high. The judge said "oh, if they are so high, tell me what you spent so I can get an idea of what you think is fair for a side in this case." This presumes several things. First, the intention is to still award fees to the defendant, as originally stated. The claim of the fees being too high is being considered. If the fees the defendant claimed are in line with the actual expenses of the plaintiff, the award will stand. If they are not in line with the plaintiff, the defendant will have to defend the high charges.

          As I see it, it is a win. We expect that the plaintiff's fees are high. That means that anything close to the legal fees can be named in the countersuit by all future defendants.
          • Re:So? (Score:4, Funny)

            by Viceroy Potatohead (954845) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:49PM (#18370493) Homepage

            Even your analogy misses the point. You can't fumble the throw.
            This is /. Most people can't fumble a throw, but we can. To paraphrase Sartre: "Sports is other people."
            • This is /. Most people can't fumble a throw, but we can. To paraphrase Sartre: "Sports is other people."
              Most people here on Slashdot don't even try (won't even play).
        • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:19PM (#18370331) Homepage Journal
          You are so wrong. The last thing in the world the RIAA wants is for an opponent like Marilyn Barringer-Thomson to know (a) how much they pay their lawyers and (b) what the financial arrangement is with the lawyers. I imagine that they will stipulate to the reasonableness of Ms. Foster's fees now, rather than actually disclose the billing records.
        • Re:So? (Score:4, Funny)

          by inviolet (797804) <slashdot.ideasmatter@org> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:20PM (#18370341) Journal

          Witty. Yet you forget that this is slashdot... you should've used a car analogy instead of a sports analogy. Woulda got more +1 insightfuls that way. :)

      • Re:So? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Seumas (6865) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:14PM (#18368661)
        Little guys shouldn't be allowed to defend themselves. If you can't afford to win, you don't deserve to win!
      • Well said.
      • by nanoakron (234907)
        Why should it make a difference how much her legal defence cost, if she won in the end?

        Here in the UK, the winner gets their legal fees reimbursed. And that's all that matters - that you were proven right in a court of law.

        Hence the loser is punished for continuing to drive the case forward to court, when there are innumerable ways of settling prior to this time.

        Also FYI, we don't have 'deals' here between prosecutors and persecuted to 'plead' for lower crimes in return for lower charges.
      • by dargaud (518470)
        I'm curious to know what is in place in the US courtroom practice in case of very large difference between lawyer powers. I mean if one side has a crack team of twenty 2500$/h lawyers vs a law grad student working pro-bono on the other side, can anything be done to make the difference less obvious (regardless of who wins or looses) ?
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#18368623)
      Court cases are about details. Most court cases, criminal or civil, do not always end in a Perry Mason moment. Little details can reveal much that becomes important later In this case, the amount of money and work that the RIAA has spent in one case can show much about their modus operandi . If they spend very little money or time on a lawsuit, does that not show that they really don't do their homework when sueing someone? Lawsuits are costly and take forever. If one of their lawyers is suing hundreds of people at once, how can that lawyer really get all the details right. They can't. Mistakes will be made. Other plaintiffs can use this information to show that the RIAA did not do the due diligence before filing (something which we expected but is now proved.) My two cents.
    • The data will provide some insight into the Mafiaa's litigation strategy, perhaps even indicating just how much challenged-case straw it will take to break this camel's back.

    • Because people must realize now that the Legal system is a rigged game highly favouring those with money for expensive lawyers. The way to fight RIAA's abuse of the legal system is with Law, not by rantings on tech boards (preaching to the choir.)
  • by User 956 (568564) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:58PM (#18368469) Homepage
    The RIAA has been ordered to turn over its attorneys' billing records

    So my first question is, do they get a volume discount?
  • by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:59PM (#18368487) Journal
    We're just asking the MAFIAA to prove that these lawsuits aren't a legal scam, designed to put money in lawyer's pockets. How can we trust such an organization's motives if they won't tell us how much money their lawyers are making?
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:04PM (#18368547) Homepage Journal
    I assume the records themselves would confidential, but is it acceptable to publish a summary of the hours? Are there rules about the level of detail allowed?
    • One would think that legal expenses in any lawsuit in which there is any public interest at all should be in the public domain. The legal system is partly State funded and as such we the people have an interest in how it operates and how it interacts with external private bodies (lawyers.) This is nothing to do with client confidentiality. If we know the RIAA spent 500 hours with Sue, Grabbit & Runne (Attorneys), we may speculate on why so much time was spent on the case, but we do not actually know tha
      • IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that there is a confidential aspect to it. Typically communicaitons between an attorney and their client is privileged, so it is not unreasonable to think that the bills would be too. Since the RIAA is basically a private entity (albeit a trade group) and Foster is very much a private entity, then I don't see how the general public can overcome that privilege to see everything that Foster will. A summary, however, might very well be acceptable. It would also, I think, show how
  • Hope (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:16PM (#18368677)
    I hope this hurts them (the RIAA) in a place where they didn't want to be hurt. And that it somehow helps out in other trials as well. It least we might find out just how much effort they're willing to put into a case like this.

    Now if you could only get a hold of the procedures Media Sentry is trying so desperately to keep secret.

  • by codemachine (245871) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:29PM (#18368809)
    It'll be interesting to see how much the RIAA is willing to spend on a single copyright infringement lawsuit. If they are putting huge resources into suing individual customers, it will look very bad on them.

    Well, worse than they already look I guess. The public already sees these as David vs Goliath lawsuits. But now we'll be able to put a number on how big and bad Goliath really is.
    • by magicchex (898936) <mdanielewicz@noSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:39PM (#18368907)
      Or if it's a very small amount per lawsuit, then it will show that they're not really researching enough per lawsuit to actually have a legitimate claim. This seems to be lose-lose for them, unless they've spent some "golden" number in between the two extremes (but what this number is will vary wildly in the eyes of different observers).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vidarh (309115)
      There's another downside to it for them: If the amounts are outrageous, and they still offer to settle for reasonably small amounts and/or any judgements in their favor does not cover their costs, it means the risk of illegal copying will be seen as low. They simply won't be prepared to or able to suffer the losses of large numbers of lawsuits if they lose large amounts of money on each lawsuit.

      So it may turn out to dramatically reduce the deterrent effect of their threats to sue.

  • by msauve (701917) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:31PM (#18368825)
    Is the RIAA now obligated to turn over this information (and presumably make it part of the public record), or do they have the option to refuse disclosure and simply pay the opposing legal bills without contesting the amount any further?
    • [i]do they have the option to refuse disclosure and simply pay the opposing legal bills without contesting the amount any further?[/i]

      Doesn't really matter. It's a win-win announcement for Joe Public.

      If they refuse to disclose then future defendants will be more likely to hire expensive defense lawyers knowing that they'll get the fees back.

      If they disclose, future defendants have a spending target to aim at, and you just *know* RIAA lawyers are going to be friends/family of the RIAA and therefore really ex
    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @06:26PM (#18369365) Journal
      Naturally, ianal, but my guess is they can probably avoid disclosure if they scratch a check to Foster's lawyers. From my limited experience in litigation (I offer expert witness testimony in my field of expertise), usually it's fair game to cut and run when things turn against you. At this point, Capitol's best move probably is to just call butterfingers and pay up. No matter how they play this, they come out looking like fools. Their billings are either too large, in which case Foster gets her fees, or too small, and everybody knows they're running lean in these cases. There is no middle ground, by the way. It's either too much or too little. Finally, they still lose if they pay up without disclosure because the perception is that they are hiding one of the two aforementioned cases. The only advantage to them is that there's no telling which it is, which will keep up the guessing game for future defendants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Myopic (18616)
        I don't mean to ask a stupid question, but I will anyway. Why will the amount necessarily seem too large or too small? Why isn't there a good reasonable middle number?

        (Also, what is your field?)
        • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:06PM (#18370245) Journal
          Actually, there are multiple ranges here: Those in industry, those for lawyers on the various sides, and the general public. Their ranges will all overlap, so that what may be middle ground to the industry group, may be high to the general public.

          I suppose there's a small window of "about right" where the fees match the defense within about 10-15%, but that chance is pretty small, imho, without suspecting that they cooked the books. Actually, to most consumers, the fees will always be mind boggling. It's amazing how fast the legal fees on the simplest of cases can just destroy either/both sides. I happen to be a structural engineer, and if there is a dispute less than about $20k, it's usually not even worth filing. I'm not privy to all of the costs, but hours add up quickly, and lawyer hours are darned expensive. I'm usually the cheapest guy in the room, and it still costs a grand, minimum, if I'm going to be deposed, double that if I end up in the courtroom, too, and more than double again even if there's a simple onsite observation. Remember - these folks are usually fighting over $50k-$500k structures, and my fees alone could run 5-10% of the dollars in play on a small job. And, again, I'm the cheap one.
        • by jyoull (512280) <jim @ m e dia.mit.edu> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:18PM (#18370319)
          I didn't write the comment, but it's probably significant that they've already established that $4,000 is "enough" to settle the cases and to recover whatever was "lost" to the music bandits.

          So, they are rational actors if they spend up to $4,000, and no more, to bring each complaint. But nobody wins all the time. If they expect to win, say 3 cases out of 4, then they can rationally drop only up to $3,000 per case, but no more.

          The problem is, you can't get much lawyerin', research or expert assistance for $4,000... even less for $3,000.

          So if they're spending a rational amount, then they aren't proceeding to court with very good data (a single, simple letter from an ordinary neighborhood attorney can cost $200 to $400).

          And if they're spending lots more than $4,000, that's bad too. Nobody with clean hands and honest motives spends $40,000 to recover $4,000.

          Civil courts can't do much more than award cash to fix boo-boo's. Considering that, the settlement amounts, and the cost of attorney-time, there's a strong suggestion that the RIAA has some unspoken motive and is simply using the court to advance it. That sort of thing doesn't look good at all, and IMO tends to catch the attention and ire of courts.
          • by Myopic (18616)
            Well yeah I figure the "motive" is that by suing a small number of people, other people won't break the law (I use that phrase loosely), thus improving the situation of the content industry. That seems like a reasonably "honest motive". Is that irrational, from a legal perspective? I mean, is there a rule that you can't sue if the individual case isn't financially lucrative?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Look at how much stuff in the SCO case is 'under seal' and we don't get to see it. I strongly suspect that this information will not become public. (But IANAL.)
        • by Sique (173459)
          As someone who lives in a legislation system where legal fees are always open (because they will become part of the sums awarded in civil cases), I am very used to know how much a certain case has cost. The Bar Association even hands out a list how much certain legal services have to cost, and you can sue an attorney if he sends you a fee statement that differs from the Bar Association's rules.
      • You are probably correct that that is what they will do... cut the check and shut up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You're 100% on target. If they stipulate to the reasonableness of Ms. Foster's fees, then the issue becomes moot. Which is what I'm betting they will do, rather than let their adversary know the financial details of the relationship with the attack dogs... I mean attorneys.

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