Monday, April 16, 2007

Judge Grants RIAA's Protective Order Motion in Capitol v. Foster, Rules that Attorneys Billing Records Can be Kept Confidential

Judge Lee R. West, in Capitol v. Foster, has granted the RIAA's motion for a protective order designating its attorneys' billing records as confidential:

April 10, 2007, Decision, Granting Motion for Confidentiality of Attorneys' Billing Records*
April 10, 2007, Protective Order*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

Keywords: digital copyright online download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs

10 comments:

AMD FanBoi said...

Is this common procedure with these sort of records, or is it rather extraordinary?

DreadWingKnight said...

Does this "Confidential" mean that the public can't read them but they are available for the court's scrutiny for fees reasonableness?

Ray Beckerman said...

1. I think it's extraordinary.

2. The public can't read them, but Ms. Foster's lawyer and the Judge can read them.

3. In the end we'll probably know more or less what's in them, because attorneys fee decisions are usually quite detailed.

AMD FanBoi said...

"Finally, they have demonstrated that they will suffer significant harm if their litigation strategy is revealed publicly."

And just how can Plaintiff's demonstrate a hypothetical? The records have not been released. No damage has occurred. But they seek to connect A to B with absolute certainty.

Are there gaping holes in their litigation strategy that billing records would reveal? Are they spending such inordinate amounts of money on each case that only a couple dozen more defendants choosing to fight back would bankrupt them entirely? Are the utilizing private detective firms to spy on Plaintiffs in ways we are not aware of? Possibly to select the weakest of the herd to pursue further for "settlements".

Ray, can you speculate on the general types of things attorney billing records can reveal that damage those forced to reveal them -- or is that our job here?

And if they REALLY don't want this information to be released, and it's hard to keep a secret when this many people are going to see it now, why didn't they just pay-off and shut-up immediately, before these records were ever turned over?

The Court, by allowing this secrecy to prevail, harms the public at large, given the large number of these cases filed. And by harming the public, the Judge has sided with the ongoing strategy of the RIAA in all these other cases.

And if they can seal the billing records, what keeps them from sealing the decision as well? I just hope that Ms. Foster and her lawyer refuse to agree to any confidentiality agreements that they don't have to.

That sort of agreement, IMHO-IANAL, is the BIGGEST flaw in our justice system. Your defective tire blows out, and your poorly designed vehicle rolls over. Someone dies, or is harmed for life. You sue, like dozens of others in similar situations, and the settlement amount is "confidential" in every case. You don't know what's being paid out to anyone else, to how many people, and for what reasons. Everyone from company shareholders to the other victims should be railing against a legal system that can have such secrecy. My belief is that a more public system, that didn't let the guilty hide their actions so well, is in the public benefit.

Now what were we talking about again?

ryan said...

Well honestly the 'harm' seem real enough. Ie it would help the defendants in other cases, which by definition is harm to the other side. However the Judge did specify that they are not particulary confidential in regards to his judgement so I have a feeling we'll be seeing at least some info when he makes his decision.

Todd said...

I'm thinking that if the judge is going to enter a protective order like this, then the redactions should mostly be disallowed. If the records aren't going to be publicly disclosed, then there's no reason to redact anything from the records except on the grounds that it's entirely not connected to the current case. I hope the defendants' attorneys are smart enough to ask for unredacted records, seeing as how confidentiality isn't an issue anymore.

rufus said...

Could, or would, the total amount billed be revealed without revealing detailed fees? Showing the total amount would not reveal strategies, or would it be in violation of the court order? It would be interesting to see how much the RIAA got rolled on this case that they basically lost.

Alter_Fritz said...

AMD fanboi:

just because "We the people" haven't read the papers doesn't mean outomaticly that they haven't demonstrated that to the decissionmaker Judge West!
And remember it was even in comments in this blog that showed at least one good cause for a protective order; the embarrassing factor.

Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars;

+to fight some soccer moms, 7-16 year old boys and girls, economicly low standing disabled persons et cetera et cetera... (and lets not forget their newest madly customer relationship campain against students just to make sure they produce ill-will against them in case those customers weren't reached while in the 7-16 years kids range).
+ instead of investing all these dollars in systems that have proven to work in generating big money for those that operate those systems like allofmp3 or amiestreet.
+ instead of using this hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of manhours according to the RIAA guy for the development of these kind of destribution models for the 21st century that the people were willing to accept (read: without insane layers of Digital fair use Restriction Management)

that is so extremely embarrassing that a protective order is justified in my opinion even for those few points, and we don't even know what else of stupid decissions those label bosses and Plaintiffs like Bronfman and Co. are responsible for!As long as the judge makes sure that the defendant gets all the information that she needs to justify her fees demand!! If I remember correctly defendant informed the court that the papers did not contain for example a total sum figure which is important I guess for his decision about reasonableness.

and don't worry AMD, as Ray already commented
In the end we'll probably know more or less what's in them, because attorneys fee decisions are usually quite detailed. and as Judge West ruled: nothing in this order shall prevent the Court from disclosing Confidential Material, if necessary, as part of any subseqent order respecting attorneys' fees." the public will very likely get the confirmation for what they already knew; the guys in charge in the "well-known and respected record companies" are totally out of touch with the marked, with the consumer and the business, they suffer from a pityful mentaly state of delusion about their role in the market between creating artist and demanding consumer and those label bosses were so stupid to listen to some simmilar as them greedy lawyers and clever ConArtists that told them that it is possible either with lawsuits or with technology to prevent something that is geneticly programmed in humans because it is needed for the survival of the species as a whole; the sharing of things.

"Amen"

Ray Beckerman said...

I didn't see any legally meritorious argument that the bills contain anything that is legitimately entitled to confidentiality.

The RIAA just doesn't want the defendant's lawyers to know how much they're paying their lawyers.

AMD FanBoi said...

Maybe they're (RIAA) is badly underpaying their lawyers , and is afraid that the defense will lure them away with a better deal. [BG]

I was just not aware that acute, self-induced, embarrassment was a legal justification for confidentiality. Also, how knowing how money was spent on this case can be that helpful in other cases.

And as for the lack of a total figure as mentioned elsewhere, if they've redacted part of the provided records, that may include How Much in addition to Who. For that reason, giving a total would give information about the redacted areas (e.g. here's the $100,000 of billing information that we'll tell you we paid our lawyers, out of the $350,000 total we are forced to admit we've spent on this case.)

Or they could just be trying to cause Defendants yet more additional work of needing to hire a bookkeeper or similar to arrive at the figures.

In every known regard, the RIAA has been slime in everything they've done here. They make a mockery of the concept of a fair judicial system with equal treatment to both sides by how they are yet to be well punished for their actions.