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Judge Tells RIAA To Stop 'Bankrupting' Litigants

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the also-bake-them-cookies dept.

The Courts 332

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The Boston judge who has consolidated all of the RIAA's Massachusetts cases into a single case over which she has been presiding for the past 5 years delivered something of a rebuke to the RIAA's lawyers, we have learned. At a conference this past June, the transcript of which (PDF) has just been released, Judge Nancy Gertner said to them that they 'have an ethical obligation to fully understand that they are fighting people without lawyers ... to understand that the formalities of this are basically bankrupting people, and it's terribly critical that you stop it ...' She also acknowledged that 'there is a huge imbalance in these cases. The record companies are represented by large law firms with substantial resources,' while it is futile for self-represented defendants to resist. The judge did not seem to acknowledge any responsibility on her part, however, for having created the 'imbalance,' and also stated that the law is 'overwhelmingly on the side of the record companies,' even though she seems to recognize that for the past 5 years she has been hearing only one side of the legal story."

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332 comments

gay nigger judge (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547157)

bankrupting the public who pays his salary..

Re:gay nigger judge (-1, Offtopic)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547243)

Since when does /. allow posting from jail. Get these fucking racists off of here.

Re:gay nigger judge (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25548095)

Since when does /. allow posting from jail. Get these fucking racists off of here.

Learning the difference between a troll and racist is the first step towards becoming less of a failure.

Re:gay nigger judge (1)

TenDollarMan (1307733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548241)

He's prolly just a /b/ tard getting above himself.

Re:gay nigger judge (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25548315)

Since when does /. allow posting from jail. Get these fucking racists off of here.

Racism isn't illegal, and, as Nancy Gertner is not black, he's probably just a random jerk trying to disrupt communication.

The dreaded strongly worded letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547171)

Having sent a letter will accomplish what?

With friends like her .... (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547189)

needs enemies?

Re:With friends like her .... (5, Funny)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547413)

This so reminds me of the tobacco cases that, once won, the wining lawyers turned around and sued the very people they represented because they wanted a bigger share of the blood money..
Somehow the Judge chiding RIAA weasels seems like a morality lesson from the Sopranos...

Re:With friends like her .... (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547463)

The judge did not seem to acknowledge any responsibility on her part, however, for having created the 'imbalance,'

Come on, now. Let's not be greedy or ungrateful. Sometimes change must happen gradually and we shouldn't bite the hand for feeding us so long as it is doing the Right Thing(tm).

Vote For Repression , Vote For John "P.O.W" McCain (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547529)

War Her0 [fuckjohnmccain.com] .

Thanks for your activism.

PatRIOTically,
K. Trout

With replies like this .... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25548135)

needs personal pronouns?

Here's how it's going to play out (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547193)

So the dollar is strengthening, making foreign goods cheap. We rely on cheap foreign goods, so this is a good thing, right? Wrong. It's only temporary. The dollar is strengthening because foreign banks are liquidizing debt held in dollars. Basically they are paying back debts and pulling stocks out of stock markets, temporarily driving up the demand for the dollar by paying back debts with them. Once the capitulation reaches a peak, the dollar will fall like a rock as there will be no more dollars needed to unwind debt and foreigners will be adverse to taking on new U.S. debt for obvious reasons.

In short, the American "brand" is hurting. The U.S. government is propping up failing businesses and is encouraging banks to engage in risky behavior. American companies have been selling bad debt to foreign countries for years, debt that may have had high paying interest rates but is now racking up significant losses for foreign banks. The USD has a major image problem that will not be solved any time soon.

Don't be surprised if $1 USD will be worth 50 or even 30 eurocents in the next decade, or tariffs imposed to that effect which will raise the cost of foreign goods. It will be welcome news to the U.S. economy which will need a new wave of investment to counteract unemployment.

There are many losers around the world who will be angry in this process, and they will want to blow shit up. Don't be surprised if we have another cold war, or worse yet, start WWIII.

GDP uber alles, raise it at any cost! Wars increase economic activity by creating things to replace things that have blown up (bombs, bridges, etc). Warmongers may well persuade us to become the window repair man who moonlights as a window smasher to increase business. Never mind our standard of living will plummet as some of us face our deaths in foxholes as others bust our asses building bombs, ceding raw materials that would otherwise produce household goods in the name of the war effort, and living at subsistence levels.

Remember, you read it here first.

- Profit Bob
vc: eminence

Re:Here's how it's going to play out (0, Offtopic)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548265)

Too bad that's OT, bbecause otherwise that deserves a +5, Insightful.

8=======D (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547217)

PENIS!

It's too bad (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547275)

Too bad that our legislators aren't as honest and bright as this judge. Too bad that the mainstream media always sides with the MAFIAA; but it's not surprising, considering the same people who own the newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations also own the major record labels and movie studios.

The way American campaigns are financed it's a wonder we have any freedom at all. I'm thinking of the movie Brazil and the old TV show Dinasaurs with its "WeSaySo Corporation".

I'm still trying to figure out how to tell if a file I want to download is one its creator wants me to have, or one that may get me sued and bankrupted. Ray, maybe you could use this angle in a court case?

Re:It's too bad (2, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547365)

I'm thinking of...the old TV show Dinasaurs

Oh, so you're the one.

Re:It's too bad (4, Insightful)

Shagg (99693) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547411)

I'm still trying to figure out how to tell if a file I want to download is one its creator wants me to have, or one that may get me sued and bankrupted.

It's the uploader's job to figure out if something they want to distribute is covered under copyright. They're the ones getting taken to court.

Re:It's too bad (3, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547591)

No, often times downloaders are getting sued too. And while everyone reading Slashdot knows that it's copyright infringement, I'd put money on there being a fair few people that have been sued who don't know a damn thing about copyright law, and even a couple who honestly didn't know it was illegal at all or consider it wrong (back in the original Napster days, I sure as hell didn't know any better, though I was in sixth grade or so at the time). Remember, common sense isn't nearly as common as it once was. Granted, this doesn't make ignorance of the law acceptable, but it makes six-figure settlements that much more insane. I could see $1000 as the upper limit of what I could consider even somewhat reasonable (for a downloader) - it's more than enough to send the message, but won't drive people to take out a large life insurance policy and then go suicide bomb the RIAA HQ.

For uploading the material, I certainly understand a harsher fine, but what they're asking for in damages is still insane. Of the little music I've purchased in the last five years or so, I've pirated 100% of it first, and of what I've pirated and haven't bought, I just don't listen. Not everyone is like that of course, but what they're claiming for damages is completely unreasonable given what percentage of downloads actually are legitimate lost sales.

Re:It's too bad (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547769)

"No, often times downloaders are getting sued too."

Only downloaders who are also distributing; Which is the default in most tools.

Read the copyright law again.

Common sense has never been common.

Re:It's too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547843)

No, often times downloaders are getting sued too.

Can you please cite a single instance of the downloader being sued without also being an uploader?

Re:It's too bad (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547619)

Ah, but with P2P, when you download, you upload. Under the old FTP-style download model, you could (and sometimes still can) get away with downloading copyrighted material without the copyright holder's permission, since only the uploader was infringing copyright. In BitTorrent-style file transfers, every participant (to a good first approximation) is a distributor.

Re:It's too bad (0)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547815)

Ah, but with P2P, when you download, you upload.

No, everything you download you also serve. There is no uploading.

You aren't opening connections to other people's computers and pushing files they didn't request into their computers. They are opening connections to your computer and pulling files they did request into their computers. The former is uploading. The latter is downloading. They are separate actions and to use both to describe the same transfer is incorrect usage.

Even the law does not use the words "upload" or "uploader".

The only exception to this is NASA's usage where uploads are to space and downloads are to Earth.

Re:It's too bad (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548205)

But in Kazaa or eMule, the third party clients have options to say that you've uploaded the maximum without uploading anything at all, and your setting is trusted.

This is why BitTorrent downloads always start out so slow, because you HAVE to download the first chunk before you can share it, and nobody will provide you with much bandwidth until you start sharing.

Re:It's too bad (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547627)

It's the uploader's job

What uploaders? There are downloaders and there are servers, but I'm not seeing any uploaders. Everything is being pulled down; nothing is being pushed up.

Re:It's too bad (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547799)

Someone had to put it there. someone had to make available the content. Those are the people who are liable.

Uploader = whomever made it available.

Re:It's too bad (-1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547853)

Someone had to put it there. someone had to make available the content. Those are the people who are liable.

Yes, but not by uploading. They downloaded it to their server and are serving it to other downloaders.

Uploader = whomever made it available.

No, that's wrong.

Re:It's too bad (4, Informative)

CyberKnet (184349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548101)

Sir, that is not correct. You do not appear to have a solid grasp on the concepts of uploading and downloading data.

If you have data on your machine, and you are sending it to a remote location that is called uploading [google.com] .

If data is coming from a remote machine into your computer, that process is called downloading [google.com] .

If one computer makes content available for another computer to pull in, the content originator is the uploader and the content consumer is called the downloader.

Hopefully this corrects your impression that originating content for someone else to retrieve (especially over most common P2P networks) is downloading. If not, please re-read this post until it does.

Re:It's too bad (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548039)

The confusion is the difference between upload bandwidth and the act of uploading.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Download [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's too bad (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548027)

Are you dense? Every bit you download was uploaded by someone else. You might as well say "there are all these people buying, but nobody is selling!". That's the same kind of nonsense. No one can buy anything without someone to sell it. No one can download anything without someone uploading it.

Re:It's too bad (2, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547565)

the old TV show Dinosaurs with its "WeSaySo Corporation".

"WESAYSO. We know what you want. We know what you need. We know where you live."

Re:It's too bad (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547683)

The way American campaigns are financed it's a wonder we have any freedom at all. I'm thinking of the movie Brazil and the old TV show Dinasaurs with its "WeSaySo Corporation".

Dinosaurs is a great analogy - corporate America should really take a lesson from the way that show wrapped things up in the last episode.

Re:It's too bad (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547923)

Dinosaurs is a great analogy - corporate America should really take a lesson from the way that show wrapped things up in the last episode.

Yeah, that wasn't the last episode. There were seven more that only aired in syndication, but the episode "Changing Nature" was the perfect episode with which to end the series' first run.

Re:It's too bad (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547781)

Too bad that our legislators aren't as honest and bright as this judge.

Yeah, uh, no. The judge basically said "this is wrong, and I'm not going to a damned thing about it."

The judge has bent over backwards to make the trial as one-sided as possible. This statement is just meaningless hot-air, since the judge has absolutely no intention of doing a damned thing about it.

I'm going to quote directly from the linked article - part of it is already quoted in the summary, but this part is important:

[Ed. Note. While it is heartening to see Judge Gertner show some recognition of the unfairness in the way these cases are being handled, it is unclear how she can say that the law is overwhelmingly on the side of the record companies when she recognizes that for the past 5 years she's only been hearing one side of the argument. It is also disheartening that she evidences no recognition of how she has herself contributed to the "imbalance" by consolidating all of the cases, thus (a) providing the record companies with massive economies of scale not available to the defendants, (b) providing virtually untrammeled ex parte access to the Court on all common legal issues, and (c) creating a one-sided atmosphere in the courthouse that causes all defendants to abandon hope. How can Judge Gertner conclude that the settlements have come about because the law is on the record companies' side, when she knows full well that the reason the settlements have come about is that there is no economically viable way for defendants to defend themselves? -R.B.]

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, it is Boston, the city that rewarded its police for demonstrating "valor" when they opted to not kill an MIT student who had a few blinking LEDs on her shirt...

Re:It's too bad (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547973)

What I can't figure out is how these statutory damages could ever be considered constitutional. The Eighth Amendment is short and sweet, and pretty damn clear in its meaning:

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

Any person with even the slightest shred of decency can see that fining someone 10,000 times the value of an item they misappropriated is excessive.

Re:It's too bad (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548177)

Any person with even the slightest shred of decency can see that fining someone 10,000 times the value of an item they misappropriated is excessive.

<RIAAlogic>
But they could have potentially uploaded it to billions of other people, so obviously the statutory penalties are not only justified, they're too far too low!
</RIAAlogic>

Re:It's too bad (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548191)

For shame. We all know for a fact that every single person who downloads something and keeps it available on P2P has uploaded it to 10,000 other people. Therefore, every single such person has in fact directly distributed this unauthorized material 10,000 times, which clearly indicates a fine of 10,000 times the actual value of the item is not excessive. Ok, I know some math nazi is going to come along and try to prove this wrong, so we'll just cut that off before it starts by pointing out that everyone always downloads the same illegal download 10,000 times so the math actually does work out.

Re:It's too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547999)

I loved that the newsguy's name was
Howard HandUpMe.
A puppet (or a news caster) couldn't be any more obvious or honest than to admit exactly how he is controlled.

Re:It's too bad (4, Funny)

Stray7Xi (698337) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548131)

I'm still trying to figure out how to tell if a file I want to download is one its creator wants me to have, or one that may get me sued and bankrupted.

Simple, every legit MPAA movie I've ever acquired has had a copyright notice at the start. So if doesn't have one, it must be free to share.. right?

throw the book at those pirates! (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547347)

She should just summarily rule for the plaintiffs, treble damages of the going rate for a downloaded song (on itunes for example).

Re:throw the book at those pirates! (2, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547669)

Honestly, I don't 3x damages really make the risk/reward ratio enough to buy legitimately for anyone. The current 30,000x or so are way out of whack on the other end of things, but if you plan to deter piracy through lawsuits, you have to make people believe that they'll come out ahead financially by purchasing. There's no way to have a one in three chance of getting sued.

Don't get me wrong, I don't support maintaining a dead business model through litigation, but knowing that the most you could be fined for downloading an album is $29.97 tells people to go out and DDOS TPB because the amount they'd likely have litigated out of them is far less than the retail value of the product. It's like why you can't steal a TV, and then offer retail as payment if you get caught.

Re:throw the book at those pirates! (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547951)

There is a damage component and a punishment component. Its reasonable for damages to scale up as actual damages go up... there is no reason to do the same for punishment.

The problem with the penalties for copyright is that they are punitively applied 'per infringement'. Getting nailed for $500 for violating copyright is actually a reasonable punishment, call it $2 damages, and $498 for punishment; that's a relatively fair outcome.

The problem is that sharing 22 songs SHOULDN'T be counted as 22 separate acts of infringement; the damages might be at most $2 x 22 = $44, plus the SAME $498 for punishment. So the final award for 22 songs ought to be around $542, not $11,000, and certainly not $222,000.

Re:throw the book at those pirates! (1)

Blackhalo (572408) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548057)

"if you plan to deter piracy through lawsuits..." The problem is that the purpose of civil lawsuits is primarily to recover damages, which in the case of file sharing are minor on an individual basis. Deterrence is more in the realm of criminal cases, but in the case of file sharing, is not worth the prosecutions time.

i think this is the future (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547351)

technological advances are running so far ahead of society's ability to adjust to and digest the implications of new technology, that as the advances get too far ahead, you get these absurdities which amount to nothing more than entrenched interests fighting progress

the riaa is as if the monk scribe's union rose up and sued operators of printing presses. incredibly stupid, but also impossible since the introduction of new technology back then proceeded at a slower clip

as society advances, its rate of progress seems to be retarded in a number of ways. a sort of trailing edge of reactionism, militant mediocrity, and end of the world believers

if progress is to continue in this world, the trailing edge can no longer be relied upon to simply slide into obscurity unnoticed and powerless. a sort of organized backlash arms itself against progress and undermines it

we must actively fight the trailing edge of progress. whether on legal issues, or in the relam of social morals. social conservatives and reactionary business practices must be waged war on. simply because they are already waging war on progress

Re:i think this is the future (4, Informative)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547761)

the riaa is as if the monk scribe's union rose up and sued operators of printing presses

Actually, they did [aloha.net] , or at least the Catholic Church as a whole fought the widespread possession of the bible. In many ways, monopolies act the same regardless of their target market, which is why you see a lot of corrupt popes back in the day.

Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (5, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547353)

understand that they are fighting people without lawyers... to understand that the formalities of this are basically bankrupting people

Why should someone accused of copyright infringement have it any easier (cheaper), than someone accused of running a red light, or breaking a contract, or committing a felony (tort, civil, and criminal examples mixed here deliberately)?

The judge is part of the Judiciary, that slowly made litigation a very expensive option — heal thyself, and consider awarding legal expenses to the winners, whoever they are, by default (rather than by special request, as happens now).

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (5, Insightful)

yincrash (854885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547479)

What about the falsely accused?

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547707)

What about the falsely accused?

Everyone is innocent until proved guilty (or found to have breached contract). By awarding the winner of a lawsuit legal expenses from the loser, those found innocent will, at least, be able to recoup their expenses.

That's in theory. In practice it would be even more relevant to the issue at hand, as those accused by RIAA will get their money back easier (if found innocent), whereas RIAA is shrewed enough to ask for legal expenses anyway.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (4, Informative)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547935)

Everyone is innocent until proved guilty

This is a civil case, there's no guilt or innocence or presumption of innocence.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (3, Insightful)

homer_s (799572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547571)

The judge is part of the Judiciary, that slowly made litigation a very expensive option

The legal system is the mafiaa here.
The ABA refuses to accredit schools which do not spend enough money (hence charge students a lot of money) on professors and libraries - even though more students of these schools pass the bar exam in the first sitting that even Harvard (I forget the name of the school - it was out of Utah or Colarado).

It is a crime for someone with enough knowledge to help you by giving legal advice - can't allow competition you know. Basically, the lawyers write the laws to make themselves richer. And you are going to elect another one to the highest office now.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

mewshi_nya (1394329) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547835)

Oh, wow, what a brilliant, subtle attack on Obama. The ABA is a corrupted, quasi-governmental body now. If they do things like this, then they should be ... um... discredited...? I dunno. I was going to say barred from this stuff, but that's a terrible pun.

Swing and a... (4, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548091)

It is a crime for someone with enough knowledge to help you by giving legal advice - can't allow competition you know.

No, it isn't, unless you claim you are a lawyer.

Basically, the lawyers write the laws to make themselves richer. And you are going to elect another one to the highest office now.

A lawyer who has 1) grown up on welfare, 2) has shown at least some interest in returning balance to income inequality which threatens our entire culture, and 3) will replace the Bush Administration with a cabinet full of something besides the Bush Administration.

If the ABA were under government oversight, you could pressure your congressperson to change the way it runs, or cut their funding. Since it has no governmental oversight, all you can do is bitch. That's the "freedom" of unregulated but necessary industry - they're free to extort money, you're free to waste your breath complaining about it.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547579)

Why should someone accused of copyright infringement have it any easier (cheaper), than someone accused of running a red light, or breaking a contract, or committing a felony (tort, civil, and criminal examples mixed here deliberately)?

You mixed them deliberately to imply that they are all the same, which they are not.

Defending one's self against running a red light is often much cheaper than defending one's self against a breach-of-contract, for example. When defending against a minor traffic violation, one does not face a mega-rich corporation with an army of lawyers with years of legal experience who capriciously litigate to drag the case out and make it cost more...but one very well may face such a situation if breaking a contract with such a corporation.

So perhaps we should ask, why should someone accused of a minor traffic violation have it easier that someone accused of downloading copyrighted data?

The answer seems pretty obvious to me: the impact of the crime is different, and as such the potential scope of damages (including the implicit damages of legal defense costs) should be different.

In the case of copyright infringement, the "impact of the crime" is still a hotly debated topic. In my opinion, this impact has been ludicrously exaggerated to the benefit of a very small (but wealthy) few, and to the detriment of the rest of humanity. Deliberate misrepresentation of who gets harmed and in what way has confused people into thinking the crime is a bigger deal than it is. IMO, the crime is petty at best, and there should be checks in place that prevent the damages from being amounts that could wipe out the average person's life savings, hence preventing them from needing to spend those same life savings trying to defend themselves.

And, of course, one's ability to receive justice in the courts should not be dependent upon how wealthy one is. Otherwise, the courts become nothing more than one more means by which the rich oppress the poor.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547581)

I love your sig :) "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" - JFK John McCain is like JFK. "Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you" - Obama

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

bevoblake (1106117) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547585)

TFS points out that the RIAA has large, high-end law firms representing them, which is way more expensive to defend against than a District Attorney filing small criminal charges. Heck, I hired a high-end traffic lawyer (well, as high-end as traffic lawyers get), who charged somewhere in the $100-150 range for a single ticket. It would be thousands of bucks to hire a top flight law firm to represent you on an RIAA case because of the sophistication of the RIAA lawyers and the fact that they're willing to file suits as a loss leader to scare people into buying music.

That said, intellectual property law has its place, and I don't have any viable solutions to fix the problems (illegal piracy, law not keeping pace with technology, nasty RIAA lawyers, artists not getting royalties because of piracy, artists not getting money from album sales because record companies take it all, artists wanting to control their own creations, and the record companies failing to recoup their marketing expenses as piracy eats into their profits, and on and on).

I haven't seen anything this obtuse or messed up since the ASP web-sites I coded during college.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

coats (1068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548003)

It would be thousands of bucks to hire a top flight law firm

You slipped a decimal point. That should be tens of thousands of bucks.

IANAL, but my wife IAL.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

shredswithpiks (867616) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547617)

Not copyright-breakers, just the type of people the RIAA are going after. It's predatory and this judge is starting to realize that notion.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

pyrr (1170465) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547625)

I think the judge is maybe just realizing that the copywrong system is very broken. If the defendant chooses to fight the allegations the RIAA makes, they're likely to be bankrupted before they reach the end of the trial, and if they don't prevail, they'll be bankrupted at that time regardless. The punishment should fit the alleged crime. It's an intolerable situation where an act that doesn't cause quantifiable harm to the plaintiff can utterly ruin the defendant. Court cases also shouldn't be decided on who runs out of money to pay attorneys first, either.

In the case of a broken contract, the damages generally seem to have some basis in reality, often some punitive damages thrown in. In RIAA copywrong cases, the damages are just an arbitrary and exorbitant number that was established with a whole different sort of offense in mind: redistribution of a published work, motivated by profit. The damages assured that if someone was in it for the profit, they'd stand to be bankrupted if convicted.

This whole mess would be pretty well solved if the RIAA's defendants were only liable for treble damages on commercial work they infringed upon (i.e., were found to have in their possession, but didn't pay a license fee for), and punitive damages based on the profits they may have made from distributing a published work. That means they might have to pay a few dollars for each song they infringed the copyright on, but if they didn't make a penny from distributing it via a P2P network, the RIAA would receive an additional punitive fine of $0 for each work shared. Not the $9k or so damages per work they currently angle for and typically receive.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547747)

I think the judge is maybe just realizing that the copywrong system is very broken. If the defendant chooses to fight the allegations the RIAA makes

There is nothing copyright-specific to this case — a financially-strapped side is more likely to fold and settle, than to fight a good fight. Be it copyright infringement, or just about anything else (except landlord-tenant issues, which in Boston are handled by "Housing Court", where the burden of proof is simply always on the landlord).

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (5, Interesting)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547637)

Why should someone accused of copyright infringement have it any easier (cheaper), than someone accused of running a red light, or breaking a contract, or committing a felony (tort, civil, and criminal examples mixed here deliberately)?

The other day, my girlfriend got a ticket in the mail saying "You were double parked, pay us $50. Your car wasn't there to give you the ticket, so we're sending it in the mail"

So you're right. This gross violation of rationality doesn't stop at copyright violations. It's spreading, and it needs to stop.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

otter42 (190544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548309)

I'd be interested to know under what law/legal justification they could possibly do this... and how it turned out. More details?

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (4, Interesting)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547651)

I would rather be falsely accused of armed robbery than falsely accused of downloading music. If you commit a felony, the court will provide a lawyer if you can't afford one. Defendants against the RIAA, on the other hand, do not get court-appointed lawyers. That is the real problem. The Constitution requires that criminal defendants be provided with lawyers because otherwise, they could not defend themselves against the vastly superior resources of the government, even if innocent. That same imbalance exists when a large corporation sues an individual, but is not covered because corporations did not exist in their present form when the Constitution was written.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548111)

I would like to be falsely (or rightly?) accused of downloading my own copyrighted works, ones for which I am the sole author, and that I reserve all rights.

I would like even more, for a media corporation to sue someone on the grounds that they represent my rights, even though I have reserved all rights and have not licensed that corporation.

For me, either of these situations would be easily converted into a comfortable retirement.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547709)

Why should someone accused of copyright infringement have it any easier (cheaper), than someone accused of running a red light, or breaking a contract, or committing a felony (tort, civil, and criminal examples mixed here deliberately)?

With respect to commiting a felony, this might sound familiar:

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to you."

So if copyright infringement were actually criminal, we'd be providing her with an attorney.

The real question is "why should someone accused of 'copyright infringement' have it so much HARDER, than someone accused of a felony"? Given that the legislated MINIMUM penalties for casual non-commericial infringement make the penalties for 'wire fraud' seem like a slap on the wrist by comparison.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547797)

... we'd be providing her with an attorney.

A really, really crappy one [justicedenied.org] ...

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548025)

A really, really crappy one...

I don't dispute that for a second. And I'll go further: even those who -can- afford an attorney are still massively disadvantaged when facing a top corporate legal team. Its long been the case that the legal system too often provides the 'justice you can afford'.

However, my original point still stands: An inadequate defense attorney is still better than none at all.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547749)

Why should someone accused of copyright infringement have it any easier (cheaper), than someone accused of running a red light

How many injuries and deaths are caused by downloading music? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in Virginia, has noted that there were more than 200,000 crashes caused by red light runners, resulting in 176,000 injuries and 934 deaths in 2003.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547845)

You mixing your law breakers.

She is commenting on a specific issue, don't make it over broad to the point of fallacy.
She doesn't want to make it easier, she want's it to be the same. In these cases the **AA have been using the system as a way to beat money out of people and completly remove any options from them.

"heal thyself, and consider awarding legal expenses to the winners, whoever they are, by default (rather than by special request, as happens now)."

Really? you really can't figure out why it's that way?

Becasue it removes recourse from people, with the exception of deep pockets.

In court, being right doesn't mean you will win. They try hard to make it as fair as possible, but there you go.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547995)

You are a pig. Your are literally comparing downloading music to murder. And when you talk about running red lights, very few people go bankrupt over a traffic ticket. This is civil law, so you have to pay for your own defense. If you don't have a lawyer, and you are going up against law firms funded by the RIAA, it's like an average person being attacked by a mob of bikers. It is a misuse of the legal system. If you don't see this then there is something really wrong with your moral standards.

too bad it's not you (1)

purpleraison (1042004) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548123)

Why should someone accused of copyright infringement have it any easier (cheaper), than someone accused of running a red light, or breaking a contract, or committing a felony (tort, civil, and criminal examples mixed here deliberately)?

The judge is part of the Judiciary, that slowly made litigation a very expensive option — heal thyself, and consider awarding legal expenses to the winners, whoever they are, by default (rather than by special request, as happens now).

It's all fine and dandy to take that position, unless you realize that innocent people actually become bankrupted as well. I am 100% certain that if you, or your children (provided you're not too much of a douche to find a live woman) ever were unjustly targeted by the RIAA you would be the first one on /. crying about it like a little girl.

There is nothing just about what the RIAA is doing, and to suggest otherwise is insane.

Re:Why should copyright-breakers have it easier? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548349)

The judge is part of the Judiciary, that slowly made litigation a very expensive option

Really, its the legislature (both by writing the laws that frame litigation, and by not funding the judiciary so as to make litigation more time consuming than it would otherwise be, further increasing the cost) that has made litigation a very expensive option.

but (1)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547355)

The record companies need to make money to, so please think of the money grabbing executives who can't count on their subpar talent pool to provide them their golden parachutes.

Re:but (1)

Vagnaard (1366015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547689)

The record companies need to make money to, so please think of the money grabbing executives who can't count on their subpar talent pool to provide them their golden parachutes.

I hope they make enough money to all get golden parachutes. Then they'd all die and we would be rid of them ?

I mean, a parachute made of gold won't help you stop falling.

the most ineffective ask, ever? (3, Funny)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547369)

it's terribly critical that you stop it

Leaving aside the incompetence of the statement, does a (mere) judge think that what he/she says will make any difference to the RIAA. After all, they're engaged in a *war* against all these heinous criminals. (ok, irony mode OFF)

Re:the most ineffective ask, ever? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547863)

Knowing you are pissing off judges will make a difference. It might take a few.

Really, lets not vote becasue its only 1 vote.

Sanity Check? (2, Informative)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547421)

Who the hell is this judge? FTA:

THE COURT: They're not asking you for this, this is your son needs to pay $4,600 to the record companies, who are in desperate need of this money, unless your son can show that he has no way of paying it.

Yes, those record execs desperately need that money more than someone who just graduated from a tech institute! There were $600 in claimed damages! I know enough about law and punitive damages to know it's not set up to support billion-dollar corporations! It's to punish those who violated the law. Suing for punitive damages should not, legally, be considered a source of income.

Apparently justice is blind AND stupid in Boston.

Re:Sanity Check? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547589)

Punitive damages shouldn't even be given to the plaintiff. Their intent is to punish, not compensate, so the money should just go to help fix that fourteen digit debt we've been racking up.

Re:Sanity Check? (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548223)

Punitive damages shouldn't even be given to the plaintiff. Their intent is to punish, not compensate, so the money should just go to help fix that fourteen digit debt we've been racking up.

I agree with this in principle. But at the same time, if the plaintiff is only allowed to recover the $4 in actual damages, what is his incentive in pursuing the case in the first place?

Now perhaps this is precisely what you intend in the case of copyright infringement but this effectively legalizes petty crime in general, because its impossible to even break even. Everything from small scale Ebay fraud to the dry cleaners lose your pants leaves you with no recourse.

It would be far better to simply limit punitive damages to a single instance. After all if infringing copyright has a $500 punitive damage, making 22 songs available shouldn't expose you to 22x that amount ($11,000) After all, it doesn't cost 22x as much to ligitate the case.

Re:Sanity Check? (4, Informative)

Puk (80503) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547783)

Please read the rest of the exchange if you're going to criticize. The judge is clearly being sarcastic. From a brief review, I also see (in the same conversation):

MR. MANN: I don't know what the merits of the case were when the earlier court rendered a judgment against Mr. Atkinson.
THE COURT: There were no merits of the case, it was a default judgment, all that happened,' you sued, there was silence on the other side, and then you come up with a judgment of $4,000 because that's the statutory damages, and Congress says you can get it. These people never defended, if now they brought forward a defense --

and

THE COURT: But you understand this is a terribly vicious cycle. On the one hand, you say we bring them into court so we can examine them. They come into court without a lawyer. They haven't a clue what these proceedings are. We have been trying to explain it to people, and then because they don't respond, the numbers keep on going up and up, and at a certain point after 133 cases in my court and countless around the country, the plaintiffs are going to realize this is making no sense and making them look bad.

-Puk

Re:Sanity Check? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25548163)

Where do you get that?!

First off, I really dislike the idea of sarcasm from the bench, I'd hope that a judge would behave a tad more professional than that, but I guess Massachusetts isn't known for professionalism. How many people did they kill who were celebrating local sports victories this year?

Anyway, the quotes you're referring to happen literally pages after the original quote. The full quotes are:

THE COURT: They're not asking you for this, this is your son needs to pay $4,600 to the record companies, who are in desperate need of money, unless your son can show that he has no way of paying it. He has to respond. He has to be able to respond to this and indicate what his assets are and what his liabilities are, do you understand? If he doesn't have any money, he has to tell them that.

MR. ATKINSON: Pardon me.

THE COURT: If your son doesn't have any money --

MR. ATKINSON: Well, he just left school, he doesn't have any money.

THE COURT: He's in school now?

MR. ATKINSON: He just left school, he just graduated from school. He doesn't have any money now. He asked me to negotiate, you know, to pay some kind of funds.

THE COURT: Does he owe money from his school?

MR. ATKINSON: He doesn't have any money right now, he just left school.

THE COURT: No, no, does he owe money from his tuition? Oh, high school, he's in high school?

MR. ATKINSON: No, he just graduated from the computer school so he doesn't have any money right now, so he can negotiate with the recording people to see how much he can pay.

THE COURT: Counsel, you will talk to Mr. Atkinson afterwards to negotiate.

Yep, just dripping with sarcasm there. Three pages later we finally get to the part you quoted.

Re:Sanity Check? (4, Insightful)

idiot900 (166952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547833)

Wow, you're dense. The judge was clearly being sarcastic in this comment. If you read the rest of the text, it seems awfully like the judge was trying to help Mr. Atkinson by implying that his son should tell the plaintiffs he has no money, having just graduated from school, rather than Mr. Atkinson giving his son money to pay the settlement.

This judge clearly feels that while the RIAA is legally correct, their heavy-handed approach to dealing with people who don't really cause all that much damage, cannot afford a lawyer, and have no clue about the legal system, is a despicable way to attempt to solve their problems.

Re:Sanity Check? (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548011)

In its context, the judge knew the son was working, but not that he had just graduated. That had yet to be discussed. In its context, sarcasm would be a very uncomfortable fit. The sentence, by itself, sounds sarcastic... but not in the rant the judge is going on at the man to get him to respond coherently to what was being asked of him.

Perhaps if she had a goofy tone of voice for the entire rant, that would change the tone of it, but as all we can go with is a transcript, you have to actually take it within its context -- a frustrated judge trying to get answers out of a man who won't give them. Maybe if the clerk had marked it with (goofy voice) blah blah blah(/goofy voice) then it could be construed as "obviously sarcastic."

Re:Sanity Check? (1)

Kredal (566494) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548193)

Maybe the transcript should have a ~ after the "desparatly needed money" comment, then we'd all know it was sarcasm!

Thanks, Geekoid! (:

The RIAA firms aren't really the best (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547437)

I've heard of Robinson and Cole, but none of the firms are Vault top 100 (Vault does a guide partly based on the prestige of law firms), the RIAA could do better if they wanted.

Re:The RIAA firms aren't really the best (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547887)

I've heard of Robinson and Cole, but none of the firms are Vault top 100

Don't worry, the RIAA will just buy them a chart position. Wouldn't be the first time...

prophecy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547469)

...this will end badly....
(sometime in the future)

Background (4, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547477)

The judge did not seem to acknowledge any responsibility on her part, however, for having created the 'imbalance', and also stated that the law is 'overwhelmingly on the side of the record companies', even though she seems to recognize that for the past 5 years she has been hearing only one side of the legal story."

I'm going to need a little bit more explanation that isn't in TFA. The judge has been presiding over a trial for 5 years in which only one side is allowed to speak? Is this the result of some RIAA-lobbyist induced law that says the other side doesn't get a say, or for some reason did the judge declare the other side didn't get to talk in this case? Are the next five years of the court case going to be "Now the RIAA doesn't get to talk, defendants only."?

Re:Background (5, Informative)

bob_herrick (784633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547831)

I believe the point is that the record companies are repesented by lawyers, hundreds of lawyers, who are trained in the law, and who have experience not just in the strategic use of the law, but in its tactical uses as well. The strategic uses include choice of venue, points of law to be briefed and argued, witnesses to prepare and examine, etc. The tactical uses include the taking of depositions, issuing subpoenas, and requiring access to documents and accountings. All of this can be arcane and difficult to fathom for a non-lawyer, and compliance can be expensive. Non-lawyers are at a disadvantage in both depolying these strategies and tactics and in executing them to the satisfaction of a court. It is not that the defendants were not permitted to speak. It is more as if they could not find the right words to say.

Judge did not create the situation... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25547491)

"The judge did not seem to acknowledge any responsibility on her part, however, for having created the 'imbalance'"

What are you talking about? No, because she didn't create the imbalance. The legislators and litigants created it. The legislators by creating the relevant laws, the RIAA created it by suing people, and the people being sued provoked the RIAA by allegedly sharing the files in question. Copyright law exists to stipulate who is within their rights and who isn't, and the judge is there to PRESIDE over the case and the decision, the procedure for which is also constrained by law.

The imbalance exists because the RIAA has loads of money and the people they've decided to sue don't. Did the judge establish that situation? No. To imply that she's at fault for even hearing the case is silly (it's her job), unless you think the case shouldn't be heard simply because one litigant has loads of money and the other doesn't. It would be an interesting precedent.

Re:Judge did not create the situation... (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547875)

and the people being sued provoked the RIAA by allegedly sharing the files in question

So the people who were wrongly accused provoked the RIAA because the RIAA said that they shared the songs?

The imbalance exists because the RIAA has loads of money and the people they've decided to sue don't. Did the judge establish that situation? No.

But she helped to perpetuate. You're right in that it's a systemic problem and not necessarily her fault, but Marie Antoinette didn't create the situation that made the statement "let them eat cake" ridiculous either. Out of touch is out of touch, and just because the judge didn't create the situation doesn't mean she doesn't have the ability to fix it, at least in this situation.

Re:Judge did not create the situation... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25548063)

the people being sued provoked the RIAA by allegedly sharing the files in question

Think how that would sound if you made the following substitutions:
sued: raped
RIAA: gang
sharing the files: wearing short dresses and provocative makeup

Re:Judge did not create the situation... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25548105)

There is only justification for grouping the cases together if the allegation is made that all these same people were involved in the same event(s) at the same time otherwise it would be like grouping together several different speeding tickets given to several different people all at different locations and times. (Ignoring the civil vs. criminal justice differences.) In short for all these defendants to be linked to a single case there must be the allegation they acted together, else it should be grounds for successful appeal in the event they lose the decision. Being as they are all Pro Se cases indicates they may not be able to properly file the appeal or even afford the fee for doing so. It almost appears as if the judge was trying to influence the defendants to settle rather then fight the case in which case the judge might be opening herself to reprimand but can't say without more information on the case and codes related to her decision as well as IANAL.

Summary is Inflamatory and Unforgiving (2, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547633)

Summary author doesn't understand the role that judges in her position play. One of their jobs is to enforce the law, as it stands. She cannot reinterpret the law or rule along the notion of "what's fair" and expect to keep her job. Especially with the entertainment conglomerates so capable of funding another, more entertainment friendly replacement in the next judicial appointment cycle.

This kind of summary just burns bridges where they are needed most, as in, deep inside the legal system.

Please rewrite the summary praising the judge for committing, to paper, sound social and legal commentary that will make her next election/appointment cycle very, very tough.

Re:Summary is Inflamatory and Unforgiving (4, Informative)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547697)

Her next cycle? This is a Federal judge, who has a life term, and can only be removed by impeachment, and who's salary can never be decreased.

Re:Summary is Inflamatory and Unforgiving (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547821)

Please rewrite the summary praising the judge for committing, to paper, sound social and legal commentary

Perhaps you should read the court proceedings, as they are linked, before you tell someone the summary is bad. There was no letter or written commentary. She was expressing her frustration of why the case has been going on for 5 years and it's only gone from chaotic to frustrating because no one is getting legal representation and they don't know how to file motions, properly, by themselves. Instead they're flailing their hands, accusing family members, turtling in, or they just stop showing up (which the RIAA are picking off one by one as they do).

Re:Summary is Inflamatory and Unforgiving (3, Insightful)

Gutboy (587531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547859)

Summary author is a Lawyer who has been fighting the RIAA for years now. I believe he does understand the role that judges fill, one is to make sure that the court is fair to both sides.

I wonder if it's election season for this judge? (0, Troll)

Grendel_Prime (178874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547735)

That's the only time they seem to care what people think about the cases they hear and decide.

Bankrupt people (3, Insightful)

the_arrow (171557) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547837)

Bankrupt people can not pay their fees to the record companies, and neither can they (or will, probably) buy new music. It has been said before, but it seems like the record companies are shooting themselves in both their feet.

Maybe she's now Judge Dread, and tired of hearing (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547907)

the RIAA's "broken record"... constantly in play...

Speaking of salaries... (1)

geogob (569250) | more than 5 years ago | (#25547981)

I wonder how good the artists royalties return would be if we took all the money the RIAA and MPAA "invested" in legal procedures and lawyers in the past years.

Maybe someone should do the math and tell the artists... I bet they could be surprised to see where the money they should receive actually goes.

Don't you know? (0, Flamebait)

timlyg (266415) | more than 5 years ago | (#25548147)

Don't you know, lawyers are the most injustice people in the world?

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