In an odd ruling, a Michigan state agency that deals with professional licensing has closed an investigation into RIAA’s unlicensed pirate investigators MediaSentry, saying that without evidence of payment from the RIAA, there is no case. The investigation was prompted by Randy Kruger, father of one of the RIAA’s targets.
MediaSentry, a long time partner of the RIAA in their numerous court cases against alleged pirates where it was responsible for collecting evidence, has been criticized by various parties. The company’s evidence gathering techniques have been described by experts “as factually erroneous”, “unprofessional” and “borderline incompetent”.
In addition, MediaSentry is lacking the proper license required in some states to actually perform the evidence gathering. Michigan is such a state, which spurred a father of an alleged file-sharer to dispute the legitimacy of RIAA’s (former) partner so the evidence provided by them can be discounted.
If found acting as a Private Investigator within the state, the company committed a criminal act. That would have a significant negative impact on any evidence they provided to a court case, indeed it might disqualify it entirely. Without the evidence of the alleged infringement provided by MediaSentry, there is no case to answer.
Enter the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth’s (DELEG) Bureau of Commercial Services (BCS). They regulate and maintain the lists of professional licenses in the state. Their investigation has turned up no license, but more critically, no evidence of payment from the RIAA either. Without that, there’s no business being performed, which means there’s no need for a license. As such, the BCS has closed (thanks to Ray Beckerman) their investigation.
However, while the case is closed for now, the letter does say it can be reopened if new evidence on payments is produced. Since the case came out of a current lawsuit (SONY Music Entertainment v. Kruger) it shouldn’t be hard to get evidence of the business relationship admitted into evidence. Once that’s done, MediaSentry might be in some hot water.
As the BCS later states, “The Court may impose a civil fine of up to $25,000 for a violation of the Act. The Court may also find a person practicing without a license guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment.”
MediaSentry’s pirate snooping amateurs might be working for free – but that’s unlikely – as we all know the RIAA’s position on getting anything for free…