p2pnet.net News Feature:- Will a win for Patricia Santangelo mean a flood of lawsuits against the Big Four record label cartel?
I don`t believe the courts need more litigation cluttering up their already overcrowded dockets, Ray Beckerman, the lawyer acting for Santangelo, a victim in the cartel’s sue `em all campaign, told p2pnet.
With five children aged between six and 19, Santangelo, 42, is refusing to be cowed by the labels and, I`m hopeful that the dismissal of the complaint, and the court’s award of attorneys fees and possibly sanctions, will deter the RIAA and its attorneys from bringing any more frivolous litigations, and will encourage them to withdraw the many other frivolous litigations they have already commenced,” says Beckerman.
But if RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) president Cary Sherman is to be believed, the Big Four music cartel is hoping for the exact opposite. The message of the Supreme Court`s recent Grokster ruling is clear: both the businesses that encourage theft and the individuals who download songs without permission can be held accountable, digital music news has him saying.
Sherman`s calculated disinformation statement comes together with news that the Big Four are continuing their customer persecution marketing campaign by suing another 754 kids, uncles, aunts, cousins, wives, grandmothers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and no doubt his remark will be picked up by the mainscream media who`ll repeat it as though it comes from a credible source.
However, The ongoing lawsuits appear to be having mixed results, says digital music news. The total number of individual lawsuits now stands at about 14,000 since September, 2003 – an insignificant portion of overall file-sharers, but enough to create a broad awareness level. Regardless, P2P usage continues to increase month after month, and the RIAA is currently dealing with thousands of slow-paying or deadbeat lawsuit recipients.
A ‘reasonable factual inquiry’
Meanwhile, the RIAA may see a direct challenge ahead, with single mother Patricia Santangelo now mounting a defense against the group. That would represent the first time the association has gone to trial against an accused swapper, and could result in an unfavorable precedent.
It could indeed.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure a lawyer is not permitted to sign a complaint unless he’s conducted a reasonable factual inquiry establishing that his client has a case, says Beckerman. The RIAA should not be commencing suits against anyone unless it has evidence that the person being sued engaged in unlawful copying of copyrighted material. In all of the cases on which I`ve been consulted, the RIAA had no evidence at all of any copyright infringement, and had no business bringing suits.
Beckerman says he believes the key to stopping the RIAA’s nefarious practices is for courts to award attorneys fees and sanctions. If the judges punish the RIAA for bringing these frivolous cases, and punish or threaten to punish its lawyers for aiding and abetting the RIAA in this abhorrent tactic, I am sure the cases will go away, he says.
Eventually no lawyer will touch the cases, and the RIAA will have no recourse but to stop.
We asked Beckerman if a decision for Santangelo might open the gates for a massive class action and a flood of lawsuits against the RIAA.
I wouldn`t be surprised to see a class action on behalf of the defendants and putative defendants, he said. But class actions aren’t `massive`. They’re actually a way of streamlining. A class action here would turn 14,000 litigations into one. I don’t expect a flood of lawsuits against the RIAA. Most people would rather never think of the RIAA again.
Once the public becomes aware that the ‘emperor has no clothes’ and that the RIAA doesn’t have a case against them, the bullying tactics of the ‘Settlement Information Center’ in Washington will be a thing of the past. And if those deceptive tactics continue anyway, then I think you might get some lawsuits to shut that operation down, as it so richly deserves to be shut down.
RIAA black operation
By ‘Settlement Information Center, Beckerman is referring to the black operation run by the RIAA under which victims are scammed into `settling` out of court. Or face Big Music`s lawyers.
For me, the experience of settling with the RIAA was almost painless – except for the thousands I agreed to pay, said a victim, quoted in the Village Voice.
Dragging my `shared` folder to the trash icon, promising not to download anymore, and acknowledging that illegal downloading is wrongful were easy enough. I happened to know an intellectual-property lawyer who agreed to handle the negotiations pro bono. He was the one who called the RIAA settlement center number and spoke not to a lawyer, but to a staffer empowered and trained to negotiate. `It feels like they’re doing a volume business,` my lawyer told me.
And they are
No one knows how many millions the Big Four record label cartel has scammed through `settlement center` deals. But one thing is for sure. Not a penny of it has reached the contracted artists the labels purport to represent.
Here’s how it works.
Santangelo, who says neither she nor any of her children had anything to do with the Kazaa p2p application that was on her computer, first heard from the RIAA button men in February. They suggested the smartest thing she could do would be to contact the RIAA’s custom-built Settlement Service Center in Seattle, Washington.
And around the same time, a reporter on the Daily Texan at the The University of Texas at Austin, decided he’d pose as an RIAA victim.
We published his full report here, but for a blow-by-blow account of his talk with the ‘settlement officer’ (what a laugh), read on >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
By Andrew Tran – Daily Texan
I found myself talking to a representative for The Settlement Service Center in Seattle, a business that conducts settlement negotiations with individuals who have been sued. I pretended to be a distressed student who just received a letter from Time Warner. I asked the man what the documents meant.
“There has been a John Doe lawsuit filed against your IP address. The letter you have received from Time Warner is an indication to you that the law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg, and Knupp in Los Angeles, attorneys for the record company, is seeking the personal information associated with that IP address.”
I asked him what that meant.
“Time Warner will turn that info over to the law firm in a matter of days, and the letter is your opportunity to appear in court, if you wish to argue why or why not that information should be leaked. Nobody has won that argument, yet,” he added.
Recalling what Sarwal said, I told him that it couldn’t possibly have been me, that it was probably my roommates.
“If this is a roommate situation, you are still the one singled out, because you are the account holder for the Internet connection. You are responsible for activity on that account.”
I told him that wasn’t very fair.
“You should settle with us and dispose of the situation, sir. If your roommates were the ones who actually did the downloading, and you never partook in downloading or listening to music or what not, you might be able to approach them and say, ‘we have a problem, help me out here.’ But at this point in time you will be the one who will remain on the subpoena.”
He didn’t mention that this was a fact I could bring up in court. He was trying to sell me on settling.
“And the roommates. We don’t have any information pertaining to them, and they will not be pursued at this time,” he said ominously.
I asked him if my credit would be affected. Would I be reported to any agencies?
“Not at this time; you are a John Doe. If the situation moves forward where I am not able to negotiate a settlement with you, it will go into a named situation, where you will be named in a federal lawsuit.”
My shoulders felt heavier, and I felt my heart beat, panicked, even though I was just pretending to be sued.
This would really, really suck in real life.
“You will be served with a complaint and a summons to appear in court, and by that time your name will be public knowledge to all those people interested in who’s being sued by whom.”
Was he implicating the media, or was I just feeling guilty?
“It won’t affect your credit at this point,” he continued. “But if you are named in a federal lawsuit, it could also affect your job opportunities, because on employment applications, many times they will ask, ‘have you ever been party to a lawsuit?’
“And you would have to check ‘yes’ at that time, because that would be public knowledge,” he said.
I thanked him for his time and said farewell, but not before he again assured me that I should settle.
If you’re reading this, Evelyn, I can see why you didn’t call me back. Having to put up with the RIAA’s scare tactics to extort money from you, dealing with filed lawsuits intended to extract financial settlements, I can see why you’d want to put this whole ordeal behind you.
Or maybe it was my breath.
If there’s something you think we should know, tips[at]p2pnet.net
Patricia Santangelo – New York mom battles Big Music, August 15, 2005
acting for – Mother of 5 takes on Big Music, August 28, 2005
digital music news – RIAA Issues New Round of Lawsuits, 754 In Latest Sweep, September 1, 2005
customer persecution – Big Music cartel sues 754, September 1, 2005
`settling` out of court – File sharing, p2p criminals, March 12, 2005
Village Voice – Meet John Doe, March 7, 2005
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win – Mohandas Gandhi