For many people, justice is something that is bought and sold in the US, especially where filesharing is concerned. Few lawyers are willing to represent, and fewer still understand the technologies involved in cases. Ray Beckerman is one of the few that seem to, and he now has an article in the current edition of The Judges Journal, about the RIAA lawsuits.
Beckerman’s article, entitled “Large Recording Companies vs. The Defenseless” (pdf) seeks to explain the processes of the RIAA in simpler terms, and makes suggestions for those working in courts to ensure that justice is always kept in mind.
Repeatedly hammered home throughout is that the RIAA has very little by way of a case. Starting with the weakness of the ‘expert witness’, where Beckerman notes that the evidence by the three people at MediaSentry that form the basis of all their lawsuits, don’t meet basic standards). He further discusses the repeated rulings that lawsuits shouldn’t be joined together as ‘Doe 1 , whatever’ (the first almost 4 years ago). The highly questionable tactic of filing a Doe suit, using it to get information, and then filing a named suit, is also mentioned.
Suggestions put forward by Mr Beckerman include watching for wrongly joined cases (and dealing with such cases as a contempt of court), ‘don’t be baffled by jargon’ (simply put as ‘if you don’t understand the case, then maybe the plaintiffs haven’t got one’) and “have all decisions published”.
For those of us keeping track of RIAA cases, the technological details are a little light. But then, Mr Beckerman is not professing to be an expert in p2p technology, nor technology in general. He is, after all, a lawyer not a techie, and could probably explain the tech side as well as I could the rules of disclosure. Instead, he presents a working knowledge that is simple to understand even for the most luddite of jurists. Indeed, as that is the target audience, there is more than a sprinkling of legal terms, but again, none too complex as to defy understanding.
To some, it might appear that the article, a substantial, but not overly weighty 8 pages (with another 2 for footnotes) is nothing more than a rehashing of material previously posted to his blog. However, the coherence and progression of the document means that it is of great use to someone who has just been targeted for litigation, or for their counsel. In this matter, it succeeds, perhaps unintentionally.
Perhaps most significantly, though, is that hundreds – if not thousands , of judges up and down the United States will be reading this, and will keep certain things in mind should a case come to trial in their court. It is entirely likely that many of the judges involved in cases already, were unaware of some of the cases and judgments, and that others have already ruled against practices that may be used in a case they’re involved in. Everything from admonitions for joining cases, to reasons why ex-parte motions should be examined closely.
This article may have done more to dampen the legal juggernaut that the RIAA has unleashed on the American people, than anything short of a Supreme Court victory, or federal legislation. It is another fine example of an entertainment industry having their claims published, and found to be contradictory.