Sunday, December 16, 2007

RIAA Drops Claims Against Texas Grandmother Who Counterclaimed for Unlicensed Investigations, in SONY v. Crain

In SONY v. Crain, the Texas case against a grandmother who'd never engaged in filesharing, and who'd been displaced from her home by Hurricane Rita, the RIAA has withdrawn all monetary claims against the defendant, and settled for an injunction, rather than risk the Court's deciding the validity of Ms. Crain's counterclaims based upon the fact that MediaSentry is not a licensed investigator.

Similar 'unlicensed investigation' charges have been raised recently by the Oregon Attorney General in Arista v. Does 1-17.

Ms. Crain was represented by John Stoneham of LoneStar Legal Aid, in Beaumont, Texas.

Stipulation for Injunction*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the RIAA calls this a victory, and the poor woman is left now to pay all her legal bills.

--IOP

Shane said...

IIRC, in Texas computer forensics investigators have to be licensed Private Investigators. I think there are only a dozen or so of these specialized people in the entire state and I'm pretty sure that neither Doug J. nor anyone at Media Sentry are on that list.

Art said...

From item 5 it appears the RIAA can still sue Grandma if they want.

Regards,
Art

Ray Beckerman said...

Dear Anonymous IOP

There are no legal bills; she was represented by Legal Aid.

Dear art

Only for future copyright infringement... which is true for all settlements in any kind of case. You can't release someone for torts they might commit in the future.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this gets the attention of Texas AG Greg Abbott - Sony BMG already has one strike against it in Texas (remember the rootkit thing?)

-Jimbo

Anonymous said...

Shane, wouldn't that just apply if the forensics investigation was performed in Texas? What if they simply image the disc and investigate it in, say, California?

--IOP

Jadeic said...

That's akin to the argument 'we don't torture people - ok we ship them elsewhere to be tortured and then process the resulting information - but we don't actually do the torturing - like, don't you need a license for that or something?

Anonymous said...

What's to stop them from becoming licensed and then RIAA business as usual? I swear I've seen "BECOME A P.I." schools on the back of matchbooks.

Shane said...

"Shane, wouldn't that just apply if the forensics investigation was performed in Texas? What if they simply image the disc and investigate it in, say, California?

--IOP"


IANAL, but I assume that if you want to file a case in Texas state court that your investigation has to conform to the rules of evidence for Texas. Otherwise, you could just hire out of state, unlicensed investigators for all Texas cases and bypass Texas law with impunity. That would make Texas law un-enforceable and I'd have a hard time believing that Texas would allow that to happen.

Ray Beckerman said...

You mean after they get out of jail?

Actually, the fact that they were investigators without a license will probably bar them from getting a license.

Ray Beckerman said...

Reminder.....


You can post anonymously, but please sign off by giving us something to call you. Conversations among several people called "Anonymous" get too confusing.

Shane said...

"What's to stop them from becoming licensed and then RIAA business as usual? I swear I've seen "BECOME A P.I." schools on the back of matchbooks."

Unlike licensing in some states, PI/computer forensics licensing in Texas is a rigorous process with enforceable ethics rules, that's why there only around twelve in the entire state. Neither Dr. Doug nor Media Sentry can just ask for a license and get an exemption in Texas. I doubt the RIAA could hire a real, Texas-licensed PI/forensics investigator and get the same sloppy and insupportable conclusions they require for their mass litigation factory. Instead, they might get actual facts which did not support their often baseless assertions and these facts would have to be revealed in discovery. The RIAA has no interest in hiring a qualified, ethical investigator with rigorous and regulated rules of operation and disclosure.

Anonymous said...

Just another case of the RIAA thinking their bat is heavier than it actually is. I'm still waiting for the day they get it stuck to them, and in Oregon, it just might happen.

Gothica639

Asmo said...

It must be extremely frustrating for someone in the field of law who understands the intricacies, to see the RIAA constantly back down before they get to a point where anything punitive can happen to them for the ongoing nuisance they create... = \

Glad the old dear had legal aid and isn't stuck with a bill.

Phoenix said...

I'm wondering if someone makes an Illegal investigation tag stick, is that one of the things that would allow the people who settled instead of getting stuck with ridiculous legal bills to get the settlement reversed?

I'd hope so, I'd like to see all moneys collected illegally come back out of their pockets in addition to being slapped with some ridiculous legal fees themselves...

Russell said...

I think this is a winning argument for any case in Texas.

Assuming that you can afford to get to that point.

Russell said...

Hypothetically, If she had wanted to continue on this counterclaim, could the RIAA just drop the case? Would that prevent her continuing and getting exoneration?

Russell said...

Is Legal Aid required to accept this type of deal? They have a very limited budget and I would think have rules in place to avoid unnecessary litigation.

I wonder if there was an unspoken agreement not to go looking for the 'real' perps. Everybody cuts their losses.

Anonymous said...

Russell,

I think this is a winning argument for any case in Texas.

Assuming that you can afford to get to that point.


That point should be the moment they submitted illegally gathered evidence (IP address and "shared" directory screen shots) in the ex parte case to gain expedited discovery of her personal information. She is in this whole situation because illegally gathered evidence was accepted by the court in private to pierce her veil of privacy. And once that genie is out of the bottle...well they don't all look like Barbara Eden.

--IOP

Anonymous said...

This has rammifications beyond Texas, which is just one of 43 US states that require private investigator licensing.

If it got ruled (rightfully) that MediaSentry's information is illegal, it would kill every RIAA case except those in the seven states without PI licensing laws (Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho, South Dakota and Alaska), and perhaps even in those states if it is determined that the MediaSentry people were working in a state that requires licensing.

MediaSentry is based in Maryland, which also requires PI licensing.

Let's see how many more cases the RIAA abandons once this licensing issue surfaces, and how many state AGs might take notice (as in Oregon). A crack in the RIAA's armor has been exposed.

-Jimbo

Russell said...

IOP,

I believe the evidence is inadmissible, not illegal. And to get to that point, the judge has to rule on its admissibility which means that someone has to object. At least there has to be a first ruling to set precedence. And even then, I would think the evidence is admissable but for the doctrine of unclean hands. it is not the evidence per se but the qualifications of the parties of collecting it that is the problem.

And to get to that point you have to go through a hearing. The judge cannot just throw it out.