p2pnet / p2p News:- It`s a shame US District Colleen McMahon (right) isn`t in Boston. She might have had a thing or two to say about two students, there, who`ve been coerced by the members of the Big Four record label cartel into effectively discounting the maxim, ‘Innocent until proven guilty’.
Moreover, they have, to all intents and purposes, been `fined` almost $4,000 by EMI (UK), UMG (France), Sony BMG (Japan, Germany) and WMG (US) without ever having been near a court or a judge.
Every time the Big Four use their RIAA to launch a Pay Us Or Else missile at someone as part of their blackly cynical sue `em all marketing campaign, victims are told to get further instructions from the Settlement Support Center LLC in Seattle.
Targets, always ordinary mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, as well as students, are then told by an ‘official’ at the centre that they`ll have to pay a ruinous amount of money to avoid being further persecuted by teams of RIAA lawyers during a civil court proceeding.
The minimum penalty for copyright infringement under the USA Copyright Act is $700 for each song, the maximum amount being $150,000 each. So even for, say, half-a-dozen songs, the minimum amount an RIAA victim might be facing if found `guilty` would be $4,200 or almost $1 million at the top end.
A million dollars is a terrifying sum, but no one has ever had to pay it because not one of the victims has ever appeared in court, which doesn`t stop the cartel from using the mainstream media to suggest it`s successfully sued many thousands of people, around 14,000, at last count.
And this, in turn, further bolsters the idea that it`s impossible to resist the cartel.
‘Willing to stand up’
Patricia Santangelo, a New York mother, recently became the first to say No to the labels. But significantly, her case has received scant publicity and it`s therefore still not widely known that someone is at last standing up to the RIAA, as the misnomered Recording Industry Association of America is best known.
Judge McMahon first heard Santangelo, with Mike Maschio speaking for the cartel.
As Mike Godwin blogs, I urge you to read the transcript of Ms. Santangelo’s court appearance here. It is fun to read, and it has made me an instant admirer of Judge McMahon, who refused to be a mere conduit steering Ms. Santangelo to the RIAA’s “conference center” (which should properly be called a “surrender center”):
MR. MASCHIO: No, all I was suggesting, your Honor, is that, if she doesn’t come with an attorney, that the more direct way of doing this — and this is just to facilitate things — is to deal directly with the conference center.
THE COURT (McMahon): Not once you’ve filed an action in my court.
MR. MASCHIO: Okay.
THE COURT: You file an action in my court, your conference center is out of it. They have nothing to do with anything.
MR. MASCHIO: Okay. I’ll give her my card.
THE COURT: If you are here, you are here as an officer of the court. You’re taking up my time and cluttering up my calendar, so you will do it in the context of the Court. Maybe it will be with a magistrate judge, but you will be representing your client, not some conference center. And if your people want things to be done through the conference center, tell them not to bring lawsuits.
McMahon told the cartel’s lawyers in reference to the Pay Us Or Else intimidation tactic that she’d, “love to see a mom fighting one of these”.
‘I have not seen anything’
In the meanwhile, some Boston University students have settled with the RIAA and will now be forced to pay up to $4,000 for sharing their music online.
One of them is College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Sam Choi who paid the cartel $3,750 rather than risk facing the multi-billion-dollar music industry, with its legions of lawyers and bottomless pockets.
“[The RIAA] never showed me any evidence about the file which I shared,” Choi is quoted as saying in the university`s The Daily Free Press.
“But they said they had screen shots. I didn’t demand to see [the evidence] because they might’ve made me go to court and I wouldn’t have been able to settle out of court.”
School of Hospitality Administration junior Kara Jansons is, currently in negotiations with the RIAA because she does not feel she will be able to pay the $3,750 sum the RIAA demanded, says the story.
And she, too, says she hasn`t seen any direct evidence suggesting that she illegally downloaded material.
“I have not seen anything except a few general excerpts that the RIAA sent in the original lawsuit, the Free Press has her saying. “I’m not sure if I’m being charged for a few songs or hundreds of songs. [The RIAA] sent me a letter wanting me to pay $3,750. But I sent them a letter back and told them that I can’t pay them that amount of money, I would have to take a loan out to cover it. I’m still waiting for a response.”
Choi said he felt the university did not do enough to help the students during the legal process.
“It seemed as if [BU] tried to be supportive of the students,” he said. “But they didn’t do enough. From what I hear, schools like [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] aren’t letting record companies even come close to getting the students’ names.
“We were advised to get lawyers and deal with it ourselves.
A court date hasn`t been set for the remaining students’ trial, says the Free Press.
Meanwhile, Patricia Santangelo’s case continues, and she`s represented by Ty Rogers, Ray Beckerman and Dan Singer from the New York law firm of New Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP.
Since it became public knowledge that someone was at long last defying the labels, the RIAA lawyers have asked McMahon for permission to have a second oral argument of the motion, and to submit an unusual surreply to the defendant’s reply papers, say Santangelo’s attorneys on their Recording Industry vs The People blog.
I would say that asking for a second oral argument [the surreply ] is unusual, because (a) in almost 31 years of working in litigation I’ve never heard of anyone doing it, and (b) the very asking for it is an admission that the first oral argument was lost, says Beckerman.
One can only guess as to why plaintiff’s lawyers are doing it. Apparently something happened after August 15th to convince the plaintiff’s lawyers that (a) they are losing, and/or (b) the case is more important than they initially thought it was. Or perhaps they are doing it because they are hired guns and their client just ordered them to do it.
In an interview with p2pnet, Santangelo she`d never heard of file sharing before the cartel tried to get her to pay them $7,500.
That was the original amount that was asked of me, she told us. However, it was reduced to $3,750, if I remember correctly. At the time I was called, there was no music on my computer because it was only three or four months old. I’d recently moved and they had my old address and the computer we had at that location had been destroyed by a virus. So when I was told that I needed to sign some type of statement saying that myself, or someone in my home, was responsible for this `crime,` I had nothing to actually look at except a court paper with an IP address.
There was no file sharing company or account at that time. I couldn’t accept that.
And to other RIAA victims, Don’t let your fear of these massive companies allow you to deny your belief in your own innocence, she stressed.
Paying these settlements is an admission of guilt. If you’re not guilty of violating the law, don’t pay.
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First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win
- Mohandas Gandhi
Pay Us Or Else – File sharing, p2p criminals, March 12, 2005
impossible to resist – RIAA writes to Judge McMahon, September 7, 2005
The Daily Free Press – RIAA settles suits, September 9, 2005
interview – RIAA victim talks to p2pnet, September 4, 2005