A must read document that cuts the RIAA down to size

Summary:If you're like me and you're worried about the way that entertainment industry is using Digital Rights Management technology, the Digital Millenium...

If you're like me and you're worried about the way that entertainment industry is using Digital Rights Management technology, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, its lobbyists, and its lawyers to checkmate innocent people into paying copyright infringement fines that are easier to pay for than what a legal defense would cost them, here is a must read amicus curiae brief that was filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU), and the American Association of Law Libraries in the case of Capitol Records v. Debbie Foster.  Ray Beckerman, an attorney that works with the EFF and a lawyer at a NYC-based law firm that represents people who are sued by the RIAA referred to the document as a landmark. While I can't vouch for that (I'm not sure what qualifies as a landmark and what doesn't), it certainly strips the emperor of its clothes:

When the RIAA threatens suit against an individual, it makes sure to offer her a carefully chosen sum that is substantially smaller than the legal fees required to fight the accusations, even for defendants that are completely innocent non-infringers. Faced with the threat of costly litigation to defend their names and the possibility that hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages might be wrongly assessed against them by a jury, many innocent people accept these unfair settlement offers because they cannot afford the legal costs to fight back. Wielding the threat of copyright lawsuits as a club, the RIAA has already bullied thousands of average Americans into settling.....

.....The RIAA is not only continuing to prosecute the innocent in spite of clear evidence to the contrary but also attempting to expand the scope of its copyright protections beyond what the statutes provide. This copyright “grab” stems from the plaintiffs’ erroneous theories of secondary liability in copyright law. These theories, which the RIAA knows are wrong, attempt to put parents, employers, teachers, and other internet account holders on the hook for third-party computer activities—even when the defendant has no knowledge or ability to supervise the actual alleged infringers. Because of the vast differential in resources between plaintiffs and defendants and the strict liability and statutory damages regime of copyright law, these cases often settle, sending the message that these erroneous theories are actually correct.....

....The RIAA’s driftnet litigation campaign unfairly exploits the economic position of an untold number of innocent individuals who cannot afford to defend themselves against its legal machinery. Absent the promise of an award of attorney’s fees when the copyright holder unreasonably persists, innocent defendants have little incentive to risk the turbulent and uncharted waters of a protracted legal battle.

Thanks to Slashdot for the pointer.

Topics: Legal

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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