Friday, September 21, 2007

5 Out of 6 Counterclaims Against RIAA in UMG v. Del Cid are Upheld by Court, Including Counterclaim for Conspiracy to Commit Extortion

In UMG v. Del Cid, in Tampa, Florida, the defendant had interposed counterclaims, including claims for extortion and conspiracy. On August 16, 2007, she amended her counterclaims*.

The RIAA moved to dismiss all six counterclaims.

The Court has returned its decision, granting the motion as to one counterclaim, and denying it as to the other five, including the counterclaims for extortion and conspiracy.

At the outset the Court rejected entirely the RIAA's assertion of the Noerr-Pennington defense as a basis for dismissal, since the doctrine does not protect "sham litigation", and Ms. Del Cid had alleged that the infringement suits were "sham litigation".

Copyright misuse.

The Court dismissed the third counterclaim, for copyright misuse, saying that it might constitute a defense, but did not qualify as a "cause of action".

Trespass, extortion, conspiracy, Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, declaratory judgment of noninfringement

The court sustained defendant's counterclaims for

-trespass to defendant's personal property based on the RIAA's having accessed files on Ms. Del Cid's computer without her permission,
-violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act based on the RIAA's unauthorized intrusion into defendant's computer,
-violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act,
-a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, and
-conspiracy to commit extortion, since defendant sufficiently alleged "a peculiar power of coercion possessed by Plaintiffs [by] virtue of their combination, which an individual alone would not possess".

Defendant's sixth counterclaim, which the Court upheld, alleges:

Plaintiffs have conspired among themselves and with others to commit the
following illegal acts to further the ends of their conspiracy: (a) use of private
investigators to conduct investigations in Florida against Florida residents,
without license, in violation of Fla. Stat. Chapter 493; (b) unauthorized access to a
protected computer system, in interstate commerce, for the purpose of obtaining
information in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030; and (c) extortion and attempted
extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951.
Ms. Del Cid is represented by Michael Wasylik of Ricardo & Wasylik, in Dade City, Florida.

Amended Counterclaims*
Decision and Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims as to Third Counterclaim and Denying Motion as to First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Counterclaims*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

Commentary & discussion:



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


AMD FanBoi said...

I've been banging the "sham litigation" response to Noerr-Pennington here for awhile. NP, after all, seems to be the only arrow in the RIAA defensive quiver. It's wonderful to see Defendants assert it, and a court agree with it. Without the NP fig leaf to hide behind, all of the RIAA's despicable actions are open to proper legal attack!

bbsux said...

I bet the RIAA did a double take when they saw this! Serves them right.

Mr. Beckerman, would a notifaction to other judges in other cases where these claims have been dismissed help? (particularly the declaratory judgment of non-infringement)

StephenH said...

I commend the courts for this ruling. This means that the RIAA will have to face action for what they did.

Art said...

Yeah! Glad to see the well reasoned order from the Judge in this case!

By the way, there is a typo on page 2 where the judge refers to the "Florida Rules of Civil Procedure" instead of "Federal Rules of Civil Procedure". However, the next paragraph has the correct wording.


Lunarsight said...

This is an interesting one. From what I've read about sham litigation, it's normally used when multiple businesses in the same industry try and interfere with or harm a competitor, so it's going to be interesting to see if the court goes along with it here.

I do think the Noerr-Penington defense should not be allowed in a case like this regardless, since it effectively creates a loophole allowing companies acting in unison to do some very unethical [and likely illegal!] things.

Perhaps this case can create a precedent for the extension of the current sham litigation definition.