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Federal Judge Dismisses Movie Piracy Complaint

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the steve-seagal-will-punch-them-instead dept.

Piracy 225

cluedweasel writes "A Federal judge in Medford, OR has dismissed a piracy case lodged against 34 Oregonians. Judge Ann Aiken ruled that Voltage Pictures LLC unfairly lumped the defendants into what she called a 'reverse class action suit' to save on legal expenses and possibly to intimidate them into paying thousands of dollars for viewing a movie that could be bought or rented for less than $10." The judge was not enthused that they offered to settle for $7500 while noting that potential penalties could be as much as $150,000.

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225 comments

first (-1, Troll)

jeffclay (1077679) | about a year ago | (#43732209)

FIRST!

Re:first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732243)

I have a rancid asshole that's absolutely infested with feces, and I'll scream it from the rooftops if I must! Now, my fellow Slashdotters, a question: Which one of you will be the first to stick his fetid cock into my repugnant asshole? I know you're all drooling just thinking about it. Decide quickly; my smelly asshole is aching for some cum! What say you? What say you? What say you?

Re:first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732339)

I have a rancid asshole that's absolutely 100% infested with feces, and I'll scream it from the rooftops if I must! Now, my fellow Slashdotters, a question: Which one of you will be the first to stick his fetid cock into my repugnant asshole? I know you're all drooling just thinking about it. Decide quickly; my smelly asshole is aching for some cum! What say you? What say you? What say you?

About time (5, Insightful)

willthiswork89 (2885827) | about a year ago | (#43732215)

It's about time the court system grow a backbone and say something to these wankers. What really needs to happen is a lawsuit filed for intimidation by the defendants.

Re:About time (5, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43732329)

Not intimidation, more like a protection racket.

You pay $7500 or you pay a lot more to a lawyer and risk losing.

Re:About time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732385)

Riiiight. Because the MPAA is the organization that came up with the idea of settling out of court. By your own metric you probably willingly deal with organizations that are guilty of being part in a "protection racket" every day. Heck, you even live with a government that does it as a matter of policy.

I'd ask you to stand up to your own standards but I know you'd never do that. You're another Slashtard who likes to pass down heavy handed judgements but won't clean up your own backyard, so to speak.

Re:About time (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43732425)

Not at all. The issue I have is the discrepancy in amounts. $7500 is targeted to make it just cheaper than dealing with a lawyer. The $150k is statutory damages designed to deal with commercial infringement.

Settling out of court is fine if it is in good faith. This is not a good faith offer, it is merely a protection racket. They don't even need to have a case since it will cost you more to fight than to pay.

Re:About time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732531)

$7500 is targeted to make it just cheaper than dealing with a lawyer.

As is the case in most suits that are settled out of court. I don't think you really understand what you're talking about. Given most of your other ramblings here I'm almost certain that you don't.

Re:About time (4, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#43732921)

He understands, but both of you missed one important distinction here:

With most torts, there's no question raised as to whether or not the defendant was involved. Instead, the big disagreement in most lawsuits is over whether or not the defendant's actions caused damages, and/or if their subsequent results are damaging enough to warrant a monetary (or other) redress.

With the trolls at Voltage, there's no way to tell (or even reliably prove) that the defendant and/or his products/property/whatever had any involvement at all.

Re:About time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732911)

Butbutbut, the market IS ALWAYS RIGHT!

So YOU must be wrong..

Captcha: promise

Re:About time (4, Informative)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#43732927)

Yep, that's what my lawyer said. It'll cost about $10k to get her into court, and court is always a gamble. Bear in mind I'm in Canada where court is significantly cheaper.

The upshot is that if it's less than $25k, it goes to small claims, which means you can represent yourself. If the other side shows up with an army of lawyers, the judge will probably take them to task.

Re:About time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732483)

fuck your riiiiight.

i'll knock your fucking teeth out.

it's coming buddy.

Re:About time (4, Informative)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#43732897)

One of the key differences is that when entities settle out of court, the plaintiff sets a settlement cost at an amount which would be reasonable to offset their losses.

ie: You broke my fence, I am typically entitled to the cost to a repair of that fence and attributable damages (cows wandered out via the gap). Such a cost might be $4000. However, perhaps we agree that because the fence was pretty degraded, it isn't fair for you to have to pay for the cost of replacing the fence (effectively giving me a NEW fence for free) but a portion of the cost commensurate to the value of the original needing repairs anyway fence.

The main difference, of course, is that the settlement amount tends to focus on repairing the actual harm done.

Re:About time (0)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43732697)

have you ever heard of self representation?

It's funny how the media narrows some people's POVs into a nice compact ignorant lump sum. Anyways, you don't need a lawyer to represent you, you can represent yourself if you so choose.

self representation = not smart (4, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#43732763)

A person who represents himself has a fool for a client.

- paraphrase of a well known quote whose origins I've forgotten

Re:self representation = not smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732963)

Yeah probably spoken by some cocksucker lawyer who sees it as lost revenue.

Re:About time (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43732785)

Sure you can, and since you are not a lawyer you will screw that right up. It is not the media telling me I don't know the law nor legal processes in my state. I am not even sure what forms I would need to file with what clerk.

Re:About time (0)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43732903)

you're getting sued in this case, you don't need to file anything.

lawyers don't change the law for you to conveniently find you not guilty. You either did it and are trying to mitigate, or you didn't and are trying to prove you're innocent. You always ask the judge what you need to file if anything, and you can request witnesses, etc...

I believe that the legal system is a mess almost beyond recognition, but that works two ways, for you and against you and remember prosecutor's, lawyers, and judges are just people, they're not some god like beings who automatically know right from wrong, or even all of their state's statures. Here the whole person != IP would've been a very strong argument, if its a criminal case.

The media only portrays high level cases that almost always involve teams of lawyers, but the cases always go as expected, that's because the law is the law and representing yourself might even show the judge you're not a complete failure and gain you some leniency.

Re:About time (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43732961)

You will need to file all kinds of paperwork for appeals and evidence.

This is a civil case, so they are only going to try to meet a preponderance of evidence. There is no proving yourself innocent, just defending against that.

lawyers and judges are not godlike, but just as they have no idea how to do my job, I have no idea how to do theirs. We could both attempt it, but the results are not going to be pretty in either case.

Re:About time (0)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43733087)

An appeal happens after you've lost I believe, and again you're getting sued, so they have to present evidence, with it being a civil case, the bar is lowered to they probably did it, which is a disadvantage, but there's still the whole person != IP argument, googling that court ruling and presenting it to the judge is well within our capabilities I believe.

The big reason I can think of for getting a lawyer is what's at stake and thats a problem w the justice system, a 150k fine is not just in any way shape or form.

If it was a matter of splitting 7500 among some people and settling and say paying 15k if you lose, I would go read that legislature in a heartbeat and argue my heart out, but staring down 150k and the chapter 7 would definitely make me think twice.

Also, just like there are people who do your job to different levels, the same applies to the legal system, a lawyer has been known to make things worse for some people historically.

Re:About time (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about a year ago | (#43733103)

There are in fact pro se defendants on some of these porn-troll-extortion cases. In one case Prenda counldn't easily dismiss a weak case because the the one pro se had already filed a response. So yeah, filing stuff is the right thing to do. Since he was quicker to answer than most of the lawyers, he's one of the ones who has a chance at receiving damages for the bogus suit.

You can follow it all at http://www.popehat.com/tag/prenda-law/ [popehat.com] and http://fightcopyrighttrolls.com/ [fightcopyrighttrolls.com] and http://www.groklaw.net/index.php [groklaw.net]

But yeah if in addition to not being a lawyer, you're also a regular Joe who doesn't follow legal cases and read judgements relating to your industry, you'd probably be a fool. These trolls are starting to lose so badly and quickly in court now that it should be easy to find a pro bono working for the sanctions he can claim. When lawyers get fined for being naughty the money isn't collected by the government, it goes to the lawyers on the other side!

Re:About time (2)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year ago | (#43732851)

There are still fees and paper work, and penalties for not doing the paper work, which normal "IANAL" people don't know about and thus require a lawyer for. I'm pretty sure just about anyone who showed up to court without a lawyer to defend themselves and didn't know what they were doing would be laughed at by a Judge and quickly found at fault. Despite what you see on TV, Judge Judy isn't real court and not how the real ones operate.

h4rr4 is pretty well spot on, you could defend yourself and lose, hire a lawyer and possibly win, but still owe a fortune, or settle out of court for significantly less than what you'd pay a lawyer or pay if you lost.

The court system wasn't setup to be some corps personal income stream, which seems to be a lot of what it's doing these days.

Re:About time (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43732949)

In this case, I'm not sure how much a lawyer could help you. They have your IP, you can try arguing that IP != person, but you're pretty much caught red handed at this point making the settlement a lot more attractive. My point is a lawyer wouldn't make a difference here, so might as well self-represent, and... I would highly recommend settling here.

Re:About time (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year ago | (#43733117)

but you're pretty much caught red handed at this point making the settlement a lot more attractive.

You can't possibly be serious. 34 people were just lumped together and you're saying they're guilty and should just lay down and take it up the rear. I'd say there's a very good chance Voltage Pictures LLC just picked a bunch of random IPs out of a bag and said, "If you pay the piper we'll let you off with a warning. Otherwise we can't guarantee you we won't come in the middle of the night for your house, parents, wife, husband, children and family pet."

This is totally a case of extortion.

Re:About time (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#43732945)

Anyways, you don't need a lawyer to represent you, you can represent yourself if you so choose.

With enough time and research, sure you can. With enough understanding of the laws involved, you could possibly even do a great job of it.

Meanwhile, the bills need paid, your job is still going to demand that you show up and do work for them, and since we're not talking a criminal case, you're not going to get any real competent help from the court.

So... unless you're an IP lawyer who happens to be unemployed or independently wealthy, representing yourself is sheer lunacy.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732953)

It seems you've never tried. If you have, you probably lost. Even if you have familiarized yourself with the process, by simply not being a lawyer you're fighting an uphill battle.

EVERY aspect of the legal system, whether it's traffic court, family court, criminal court, etc makes a HUGE difference if you have a lawyer.

This is a system of lawyers, by lawyers, for lawyers. Representing yourself puts you at a significant disadvantage, even if you're completely in the right.

Re:About time (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43732663)

Actually intimidation was only part of it, the insignificant part, the lumping of defendants together was why the case got thrown out:

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken last week dismissed the case, ruling the movie company had unfairly lumped the plaintiffs together in a "reverse class action suit" to save more than $200,000 in court costs, and possibly intimidate the plaintiffs into paying $7,500 for allegedly illegally viewing a $10 video.

Notice the word possibly used.

Re:About time (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#43732969)

Notice the word possibly used.

She likely used "possibly" because stating it as intimidation opens the door for a whole lot of criminal proceedings (I assume most of them would lie within RICO).

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43733105)

I agree, although it should be done in the criminal system to put them in jail for awhile. Hit them where it REALLY hurts...

Cool web site (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about a year ago | (#43732217)

Thanks, mailtribune.com. I go there, get the article for 5 seconds, then a cleared screen with a message "Please enable javascript". No other way to view article so I do so and reload the page (from /., there is no "back" from their site, strangely). I then get the article and right where the screen cleared before I get? An ad.
.

The full message:
Please Enable Javascript
In order for MailTribune.com to function correctly you must enable JavaScript in your web browser. For help enabling javascript, read this.

Re:Cool web site (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732253)

Great, my browser is from the 90's. I've got better VRML-support than javascript.

Re:Cool web site (2)

justthinkit (954982) | about a year ago | (#43732301)

What I meant by 'no "back" from their site', is that the "clear screen" then Javascript message must be conditionally served over their content as part of the original web page (because there is no available 'back' arrow from that tab in my browser). So people are going to go there, get the turn on javascript message, turn it on and then have no way of reloading the content (as the url showing in the address line is one with "nojavascript" in it).
.

All in all they have done a very effective job of (1) forcing me to see one of their ads, (2) making it very difficult to actually serve their content to the average viewer, (3) making me never want to go to their web site again (the behavior will continue across their whole web site until you enable Javascript), (4) causing me to re-disable Javascript for their site after reading the article and (5) encouraging me to add them to my hosts file so that I don't accidentally go there again.

Re:Cool web site (1)

RoboRay (735839) | about a year ago | (#43732687)

There's zero content hidden away behind some poorly-managed website's ad-wall that isn't available somewhere else on the internet in a readily accessible format. Just Google the headline or synopsis.

Re:Cool web site (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#43732787)

There's zero content worth seeing [bold text added] hidden away behind some poorly-managed website's ad-wall that isn't available somewhere else on the internet in a readily accessible format. Just Google the headline or synopsis.

There, fixed that for you.

--

There is a lot of content hidden away behind a poorly-managed website's ad-wall that's so crappy it's not worth anyone's time to copy elsewhere.

Re:Cool web site (2)

Tx (96709) | about a year ago | (#43732701)

" (2) making it very difficult to actually serve their content to the average viewer"
The average viewer has javascript enabled.

Re:Cool web site (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732429)

The site uses a meta refresh to redirect to the "please enable script" page. You can disable this browser "feature" [jkwebtalks.com] .

P.S. Javascript is very rarely necessary or useful. Web developers are cunts.

Re:Cool web site (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732507)

Easy to resolve: if you're using Firefox go to Tools / Options / Advanced - and then check Warn me when websites try to redirect or reload the page.

You'll get a nice warning which you don't allow and can actually read the site.

Re:Cool web site (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | about a year ago | (#43732807)

Setting this option screws up stuff like sports scores/commentary pages which reload periodically. If only Firefox can have this option with a whitelist.

Mass Extortion (5, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#43732221)

It's about time judges start to see these campaigns as the mass extortion cases that they are. If this was being done by anyone else there would have been RICO charges filed long ago. These cases have nothing to do with preserving copyright and everything to do with extorting the public. A $7500 settlement instead of a $150,000 for a $10 movie, how on earth can this possibly be anything other than sheer extortion?

Re:Mass Extortion (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43732519)

The problem is that the people running the legal system are themselves attorneys with little sense of what laypeople really have to put up with. Yes, it might technically be in the fine print of something that we signed, but there's no reason to believe that we understood the terms we were agreeing to. What's more, very, very few people can afford to have an attorney go over every ToS, EULA and such that we're asked to agree to. That alone would likely run into the thousands of dollars every year, assuming that the agreements are straightforward, which they usually aren't.

Until the justice system understands that these aren't real contracts which have been negotiated and agree to with informed consent, it's going to keep up like this. Sure, I signed a contract to get phone service, but it's not like I had other options other than not having a phone at all.

Re:Mass Extortion (3, Informative)

sanosuke001 (640243) | about a year ago | (#43732957)

There is no EULA or ToS; when you download a movie from bittorrent or some other such service, all the FBI warnings etc have already been removed. I'm not saying what they're doing is right (it isn't); just saying that it isn't an EULA or ToS issue.

Re:Mass Extortion (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43733041)

It's ultimately the same problem. People are not in a position to know what their real liabilities or rights are if they engage in file sharing. I know that it would never have occured to me that sharing a file for non-commercial purposes could lead to even a $7500 fine were it not for the fact that I hang out on tech sites following these stories.

I'd suggest that most people aren't aware that cases like this can be handled anywhere other than small claims court. Which for a $10 file is precisely the venue where they should be tried in non-commercial copyright infringement cases.

Re:Mass Extortion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43733079)

Since when do pirates sign a contract? I was under the impression that these defendants never agreed to anything.

Re:Mass Extortion (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#43732879)

It's about time judges start to see these campaigns as the mass extortion cases that they are. If this was being done by anyone else there would have been RICO charges filed long ago.

Exerting your legal rights is not extortion, nor is offering a settlement to avoid litigation. For better or for worse, RICO doesn't apply.

These cases have nothing to do with preserving copyright and everything to do with extorting the public. A $7500 settlement instead of a $150,000 for a $10 movie, how on earth can this possibly be anything other than sheer extortion?

Except that they're going after people who distribute the movie, not just download a single copy... In which case, it's a $7500 settlement instead of $150,000 for a $50,000 license to reproduce and distribute a movie. They don't go after leechers because (i) there are technical problems with finding leechers unless you're the seeder or you're doing deep packet inspection; (ii) leechers may have format-shifting-by-proxy fair use arguments if they have a legal copy in another format; (iii) leechers can prove that actual damages are $10, and the defendant in an infringement suit can show proof of actual damages to mitigate statutory damages.

Re:Mass Extortion (5, Funny)

Migraineman (632203) | about a year ago | (#43732985)

Would have been an interesting case to sit-in on. I can imagine that the dialogue went something like this:

Lawyer: Your honor, the court needs to understand that the motion picture industry employs hundreds of people in the process of making a feature length film.
Judge: Uh huh.
Lawyer: When these dirty internet pirates steal the movie, they are stealing the food from the children of these good people.
Judge: So you suffer losses?
Lawyer: Yes! Almost incalculable losses. That's why we seek the statutory penalty of $150,000 per individual.
Judge: [types on computer] I see that the film in question is available on Amazon for nine bucks.
Lawyer: Uhm, yes, I believe that is the correct amount.
Judge: So an individual who purchases this item through Amazon and watches it generates $9 in revenue, minus Amazon's overhead?
Lawyer: Uhhhh ... yes.
Judge: So your client receives up to $9 for the legitimate viewing, but somehow suffers $150,000 in damages because the method of viewing changed?
Lawyer: Your honor, it's complicated.
Judge: Enlighten me. Where does this $150,000 delta come into play?
Lawyer: Uhm ... pain and suffering.
Judge: Pain and suffering?
Lawyer: Yes ... mine. OH GOD, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE WORKING FOR THESE PEOPLE!

I love this judges! (2)

jeffclay (1077679) | about a year ago | (#43732231)

But seriously though. I'm happy to see judges starting to take a stand and putting the corps in their place. We need more judges like this and the judge that tried putting Prenda in its place!

Re:I love this judges! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732269)

This judge will soon be pressured into stepping down in the near future.....I don't know what the reasons will be but I know where the pressure will originate!

Re:I love this judges! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732613)

Don't worry, this judge will get a nice fat envelope in the mail soon, with her first bribe, err incentive payment. If she doesn't take bribes, there are other ways to get these uppity judges to toe the line.

Maximum Conviction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732261)

The movie title says it all! Voltage was just looking for Maximum Conviction.

Actual damages (2)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | about a year ago | (#43732263)

Can their settlement offers not be used as leverage to show that their actual damage claims are way out of line?

Re: Actual damages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732307)

Actual damages are irrelevant. The plaintiffs are claiming statutory damages. Congress created them, some random judge has no authority to second-guess that. He will get overturned.

Re: Actual damages (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | about a year ago | (#43732391)

Umm... the entire reason that the government has different branches is so that there are checks and balances in place. It wouldn't be "some random judge", but the judicial branch of the government IS capable of overturning laws made by the legislative branch. IIRC the US Supreme court has so far refused to rule on the constitutionality of the damages in these types of cases, but it doesn't mean it won't happen eventually and the gap in what the consortiums are asking for in settlement vs. the damages awarded would be relevant.

Re:Actual damages (4, Informative)

cdecoro (882384) | about a year ago | (#43732407)

No. See Federal Rule of Evidence 408(a)(1) ("Evidence of the following is not admissible — on behalf of any party — either to prove or disprove the validity or amount of a disputed claim or to impeach by a prior inconsistent statement or a contradiction: furnishing, promising, or offering . . . a valuable consideration [i.e. money] in compromising or attempting to compromise the claim").

Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (4, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#43732267)

If judgments only made me pay for what I stole, there'd be no incentive NOT to steal! It would become a "catch me if you can, then I'll make good" game.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#43732343)

Sure but that does not mean the punishment must be 10 or 100 times the value of what you stole. Twice the value is a fair amount.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732347)

Right, but we also don't put a kid in jail for 30 years for stealing (or infringing on, for that matter) a piece of candy. It's about proportionality -- a $7,500 extortion attempt on a $9 non-physical product is absurd.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43732549)

Yes, but not as absurd as the $150k that they were threatening the people with. $1000 seems to me to be a ridiculously high fee for non-commercial infringement. Now, if they were running a site that was distributing the content, that might be different, but they should really be forced to prove their damages.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43732351)

This is not theft, it is copyright infringement.

In the case of theft of $10 your fines would never exceed hundreds of dollars.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43732365)

If judgments only made me pay for what I stole, there'd be no incentive NOT to steal! It would become a "catch me if you can, then I'll make good" game.

hmm? try shoplifting something something worth 49 bucks and see if you get fined for 10 000.

of course not. even the retarded states just put you into prison for years.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43732579)

Unlikely, that's going to be a misdemeanor in pretty much any jurisdiction. Which means less than 1 year in jail, not even prison. And probably less than that as you'd get a third of that off for good behavior and I doubt that they would sentence a person for the maximum amount that's permissible as a misdemeanor.

Now, if we're talking about grand theft, or theft where other crimes are committed, that would be different.

But, no, you're not going to be sent to prison for years over a $49 theft.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (1)

randm.ca (901207) | about a year ago | (#43732759)

But, no, you're not going to be sent to prison for years over a $49 theft.

Tell that to Issac Ramirez. Sure, it was a $199 VCR and not a $49 whatever, but yes with some of those crazy three strikes laws you may find yourself in prison for some pretty stupid reasons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-strikes_law#Cases [wikipedia.org]

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43732865)

to be fair, he is a repeat offender. Yes this time is was a 200$ VCR, but hes shown a pattern. Im not a fan of mandatory 3 strikes your out but there is a difference between a first offense and a repeat offender.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43733001)

That's an enhancement due to it being a 3rd strike. He wasn't given prison because he stole a $199 VCR, he was given it because it was his 3rd strike. That's a very different problem. People don't typically get caught for a 3rd strike without having had the opportunity to turn their life around.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732773)

Exactly: petit larceny which typically carries about 3 times the value of the stolen item(s), plus the $50 court fee. IANAL I just have to learn their job to maintain their softare, hardware, servers, vpns, etc.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (1)

subanark (937286) | about a year ago | (#43732387)

Still, threatening 15,000 times the cost as punitive is over doing it. Typical willful infringement I think is triple the cost.

The cost these people should pay under a fair interpretation of the law is below the threshold to take them to court for. The burden of proof required is also too high to make it viable to try and prove that they offended (its not like you can catch them shoplifting candy from a store). These companies will simply have to realize that trying to stop people from downloading by using legislative means isn't going to work, and is simply toxic to their image to try and do so.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732597)

But there is no reason the "damages" should be an order of magnitude higher than if the person had stolen a single physical copy from the store.

Re:Unknown Lamer, that's not how justice works (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43732835)

true, but even 10X damages is only 100 bucks or so, we are talking 750X damages, that is way overboard (for the offer im not even gonna bother with the max)

Lawsuit piracy (5, Funny)

langelgjm (860756) | about a year ago | (#43732285)

"... the manner in which plaintiff is pursuing the Doe defendants has resulted in $123,850 savings in filing fees alone."

So... they only paid for a single instance of the lawsuit, then unfairly duplicated it, when they should have paid for each individual instance of the lawsuit?

That's lawsuit piracy! Think of all the lawyers who could have been employed had they filed individuals lawsuits.

Re:Lawsuit piracy (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43732893)

Not sure if this should be funny or interesting.

MPAA files lawsuit

makes duplicate copies of lawsuit without filing court fees

they "stole" the courts time (by their own logic)

If we want to be fair to the MPAA we should hold them to the same standard they are attempting to push on john does all over.

If it's so wrong... (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a year ago | (#43732295)

The judge was not enthused that they offered to settle for $7500 while noting that potential penalties could be as much as $150,000.

How is this different han what DA's do with the accused?

Re:If it's so wrong... (2)

cranky_chemist (1592441) | about a year ago | (#43732323)

For starters, DAs don't typically sue people. Criminal and civil cases are two entirely separate beasts.

Re:If it's so wrong... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43732605)

No, they often times do that. The DA is responsible for representing the district in court, while that's usually in terms of criminal proceedings, they are also permitted to initiate civil proceedings if need be. Whom precisely do you think it is that deals with things like civil commitment proceedings?

Re:If it's so wrong... (3, Insightful)

PhxBlue (562201) | about a year ago | (#43732617)

Way to miss the point. GP is referring to DAs' sometimes ridiculous overprosecution of cases, e.g. Aaron Schwartz.

Re:If it's so wrong... (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43732361)

DA lump multiple spurious charges on the accused, these guys were lumping multiple defendants on a single spurious charge, so to be fair it's not really the same issue.

Re:If it's so wrong... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43732627)

That's a real problem and a good reason why plea bargaining ought to be outlawed or at least tightly regulated. Ultimately they'll throw the death penalty or an unreasonably long sentence onto the table to scare the defendant into pleading guilty. The fact that we even have such a thing as an Alford Plea is really disturbing.

Alford Plea done right (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#43732979)

Done right, an "Alford Plea" and "no contest" please would amount to "I'll do the crime, but I won't carry any public record, and the charges will be completely dismissed the day my prison/parole/probation is ended and all fines are paid."

Now, I would go along with a recommendation that for any crime with a legal record that won't go away after a year or two (i.e. anything worse than a traffic ticket, jaywalking, stealing a piece of candy, etc.), an Alfred Plea or a straight-up guilty plea be accepted only after the prosecution has proven their case to a judge by preponderance of the evidence, and that all such pleas include automatic leave to re-open the case if new evidence appears AND a judge rules that the new evidence, plus the old evidence, would result in a rejection of the guilty plea because the total evidence no longer tilts towards guilt.

For traffic tickets, I have no problem with people just pleading no contest and paying the fine. In jurisdictions where the police get ticket-happy the media usually does their job and shines a light on the problem, eventually.

Re:If it's so wrong... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43733119)

DA lump multiple spurious charges on the accused, these guys were lumping multiple defendants on a single spurious charge, so to be fair it's not really the same issue.

oh but this guy did that too. (pay now X or pay in court 30X).

Re:If it's so wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732383)

It's not. This is one good judge in a ridiculously bad batch.

Is $7,500 really appropriate (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732319)

If I was convicted of watching a Steven Seagal movie, I'd ask for at least $10,000 in restitution!

Same company is going after Canadians (1)

bshell (848277) | about a year ago | (#43732685)

Voltage Pictures (who are these guys?) are doing the same thing in Canada, [torrentfreak.com] according to this article at Torrent Freak. Makes a good read. Basically, in Canada, the ISP Tek Savvy is not standing up to Voltage, however they have delayed proceedings for a month to notify their users. Here's a question for you Slashdotters: if a person removes all evidence of downloaded movies from their computer and denies downloading anything or ever possessing any "pirated" material can they still be found guilty? I know that there may be a record someplace of the bits having transited the Net to a particular IP address, but is this enough for a conviction? If there "is no body", i.e. no "pirated" file as evidence, how can anything be proven? Same for broadcast material? If I "accidentally" capture some radio waves from a private network and watch a pay-for-view show, then the show is over, how can anything be proven that a show was "pirated"?

Re:Same company is going after Canadians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732975)

It can't but they can start to ask for ISP data and will just try and sue the individual who owns that connection at that particular time (RE: suing the account holder vs the "thief"). Most judges and court systems have no idea how the internet works and this keeps winding up in wins for the industry because, since they have the money, people believe they would never lie.

Re:Same company is going after Canadians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732993)

What if you produced documentation showing you paid for a premium cable channel that showed the video and claimed that their poor scheduling had caused you to miss the video many times although you had already paid for it and you had to watch it by download in order to get your money's worth due to their failure to deliver media in a convenient and timely manner.

Re:Same company is going after Canadians (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#43733029)

if a person removes all evidence of downloaded movies from their computer and denies downloading anything or ever possessing any "pirated" material can they still be found guilty?

First off, this is a civil case, so "guilty" isn't the right word.

But, generally, yes, if you are found to have destroyed evidence that you knew or that a reasonable person would have or should have known would be needed in a future court case, the court can sanction you. The typical sanction is to instruct the jury to assume the destroyed material would have been the worst possible thing for you in this case.

If you destroyed it before being sued or it was destroyed as part of an automated system before you reasonably could protect it, you will likely fare much better.

The evidence against you in a piracy case is not just the existence of the downloaded file, but the traffic coming into your network and the evidence that all other plausible explanations have been dealt with.

What if they did it "the slow way"? (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#43732695)

What if they did it "the slow way" and spent the extra $6K or so per defendant in filing fees and sent non-extortion-type letters simply saying "you are being sued for copyright infringement. Please appear at this court on this date or, if you wish to negotiate a settlement, contact us at our business office by __DEADLINE__."

Then "offer" a settlement in the tens of thousands of dollars range ($7.5K as "target profit," plus sunk costs + their pro-rated estimated costs for cases they think they might lose + their pro-rated estimated costs for cases where they think they might "win" but will recover less than $7.5K plus costs).

How would a judge handle that strategy? Would a single judge even notice?

Re:What if they did it "the slow way"? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43732943)

I think a judge would notice. Many of these cases have hundreds of defendants (i know this one is on the low side with only 30 something) but if the MPAA filed a complaint with the court the proper way, and individaully for each case. the judges would get sick and tired of it quick.

for example, there are always so many pot possession cases that go on that the police dept has been told to simply destroy the pot in person and let it go (its its a personal use case and no other crime) I would wager that if the judges are annoyed with the cops doing their jobs (agree with it or not) I can only imagine how they would feel if some random private company took up all their time.

Change Approach (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43732743)

It occurs to me that the movie industry could change its approach here. Why not work with streaming companies and send these people a letter with some choices. Pay for the movie at its real costs, purchase a streaming service, pay a fine, or prove you already have done so. If the government worked with them to make a resonable but annoying fine linked to their taxes so they have to otherwise pay it, the vast majority of people would buy the film or the service. Why not, you get out of trouble but the fine is sane so you feel you have some choice. The industry gets its money, a small amount of which goes to pay the government's costs. The government is happy as fine based systems are vastly cheaper if not profitable for them. Everybody wins.

Re:Change Approach (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43732955)

the problem is that would take control away from X and Y. X and Y are not known for wanting to give up control, control means more to X and Y then $
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